SA WILL refuse all rhino hunting permit applications from hunters in Vietnam, says Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa .
Rising East Asian demand for rhino horn has pushed up its price to about $60000/kg and increased poaching in SA, with 159 rhino killed so far this year.
“We are consulting at the diplomatic level and the outcome of the process will allow us to refuse all applications for white rhinoceros hunting by foreign hunters whose state of usual residence is Vietnam,” Ms Molewa said yesterday in the Kruger National Park. The park continues to bear the brunt of what Ms Molewa termed a “war”, with 95 of the 159 illegally hunted rhinos this year killed in the park.
So far this year 90 people have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching, 21 of them in the park.
If poaching rates continued to rise as they had since 2008 when 83 rhinos were lost, a marked jump on previous years’ average of 15, the species could go into decline by 2016, said South African National Parks wildlife veterinary services head Markus Hofmeyr.
However, the species had not reached the “point of no return” and SA could still “effect a turnaround”, he said.
Ms Molewa said she felt “very optimistic that we are indeed waging this war with everything at our disposal…. We will not give in. We will fight it with everything we have.”
SA would not yet propose to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), to allow trade in rhino horn subject to conditions.
Some conservationists and economists have argued that trading under strict rules is the only way to gain control of East Asia’s demand for the horn. Many in that part of the world believe it is a cure for various ills, from cancer to hangovers.
Ms Molewa said there was not enough time to do the work required to decide whether to mak e such a bid at the next Cites conference, in Thailand next year. If a proposal were to be made, it would be at the Cites meeting in 2019, where SA would have to gain the backing of two-thirds of the signatories.
“It is a very sensitive issue, both nationally and internationally, and we want to do all the analytical work to inform that decision,” Ms Molewa said.
Draft amendments had been made to the standards for marking rhino horn and for hunting white rhino. Detached horns had to be microchipped and applicant hunters would have to prove membership of a hunting association, or of previous hunting experience.
Thai prostitutes who had never before hunted, or had never held a gun, had posed as legal hunters for syndicates.
Ms Molewa said the awarding of hunting licences had been tightened up and applications would only be accepted from bona fide hunters from countries that had adequate legislation to ensure horns and hunting trophies would only be used in terms of Cites rules.
Police spokesman Vish Naidoo said about 30 people had been convicted of rhino poaching crimes this year. Ms Molewa said two had been sentenced to life in jail.
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