On the 22nd of September 2021−World Rhino Day−the acting head of South African National Parks, Dr Luthando Dziba, said that there may be fewer than 3000 rhinoceroses left in the Kruger National Park. Dziba also confirmed that South Africa’s rhino population had declined by nearly two-thirds in just ten years.
The primary threat to rhinos is human demand for their horns which are sold on the black markets of Southeast Asia as aphrodisiacs, so-called traditional medicine or as a status symbol.
Only a decade ago South Africa was home to the world’s largest population of White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum) and Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis), this equated to approximately 90% of the global population of southern white rhino and 36% of the world’s black rhino population.
Since 2008 there has been a cataclysmic increase in the number of rhinos killed for their horn. The reported number of rhinos killed for their horn in South Africa since 2008 is 9067.
The number of white rhinos living in South Africa’s flagship national park, the Kruger National Park declined by 60.42% in just a six-year period, from an estimated 8,968 in 2013 to an estimated 3,549 in 2019, while the black rhino population fell by 57.25% in a 10-year period, from an estimated 627 in 2009 to an estimated 268 in 2019.1
The data contained in the first chapter of this report illustrates the confusing and in concise figures regarding the official rhino population figures that have been reported and repeated over the past twenty years.
What happened to the Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for white rhino−a draft of which was gazetted for comment in March 2015? The announced target was aligned to the escalating poaching statistics. The world was informed by the South African government that a realistic achievable goal of a meta-population of at least 20 400 white rhinos in South Africa was entirely achievable for the year 2020, this bearing in mind that 1349 rhino were poached in 2015.
Where Have All the Rhino Gone, is a compilation of, and expansion on, the work previously carried out by researchers and investigative journalists over the past two decades. The Information contained in this retrospective report sets out to illustrate the questionable decisions that have been made over the past two decades regarding the protection and conservation of South Africa’s rhino.
The content of this report is limited to the past two decades, the time period that will forever be marked by a magnitude of government corruption and the capture and destruction of the South African justice system. It would be foolish to believe that South Africa’s environmental sector and the conservation and protection of wildlife that resides within it, has remained unscathed.
South Africa is meant to be responsible for the protection and conservation of the majority of the world’s remaining rhinos. In order to establish just what the ‘majority’ means in a reliable numerical format we would need to obtain absolute accurate data from all the African rhino range states and South Africa as a matter of priority.
The scientific advisory organisations should be urged to recommend to the United Nations that there should be a global moratorium on the trade and hunting of all rhinos until it can be established, unequivocally, how many rhinos exist in Africa today.
There can no longer be any debate−the next decade is critical for the survival of the species, and this needs to take place within a revised policy framework which foregrounds protection, welfare, well-being and a one health approach.
The EMS Foundation is a South African based social justice NGO established in November 2016. Our key purpose is to alleviate and end suffering, raise public awareness and lobby and empower, provide dignity and promote the rights and interests of vulnerable groups, particularly children, the elderly and wild animals.
The EMS Foundation is committed to contributing to the improvement of wildlife governance. With an area of nearly two million hectares, the Kruger National Park situated in the north of South Africa is one of the continents largest game reserves. The South African government is responsible for the care and protection of the world’s largest remaining white and black rhino populations. The current estimated numbers of black and white rhinos in South Africa’s flagship national park are extremely concerning.
This report has highlighted the fact that hundreds of rhinos were knowingly exported from the Kruger National Park to trophy hunters, some of whom ignited the rhino horn trade in Vietnam. Rhinos were also exported to zoos whilst at the same time thousands of rhinos were being illegally killed in the Kruger National Park.
Close examinations of the agreements made with hunters, by investigators, has revealed that anomalies were overlooked in order to facilitate the acquisition of the rhinos.
Furthermore, in 2019 the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers accused the Kruger National Park of perpetuating nepotism, corruption and maladministration. It was alleged that the outsourcing of services at SANParks was organised to enrich a few individuals.
This report has highlighted and expanded upon, what investigative journalists highlighted many years ago about State Capture and the Kruger National Park. They ask, as do we, what policies and procedures does SANParks have in place to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interests specifically involving holders of high political office in its spending?
We all argue that SANParks has a duty to avoid repeating the same mistakes, although an organ of government, SANParks is reliant on revenue generated from consumers. We are disheartened to learn of the large financial contribution being withdrawn because of maladministration.
On the 2nd May 2021, when Minister Creecy released the High Level Panel Report −which reviewed policies, legislation and practises related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros− she made the 2nd of May 2021, Minister Creecy released the Report of the High-Level Panel of Experts, the Minister made the following statement:
“Despite South Africa’s reputation as a global leader in conservation, there are still reported incidents and perceptions of irresponsible, unethical and unsustainable conservation practices in the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros, especially in terms of animal welfare and well-being, that negatively affect the country’s conservation reputation and do not bode well for the country’s international standing and development objectives.”
Notwithstanding the alarming figures that have been released of the vastly diminished rhino populations in South Africa, on the 8th of October 2021 the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment released a government gazette notice on the proposed hunting and or export of elephant, black rhinoceros and leopard hunting trophies for the 2021 calendar year.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Queen Elizabeth II once said:
“To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past, I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently, or not at all.“
©The EMS Foundation 2021. All Rights Reserved.No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission from the EMS Foundation in writing.
Legal Disclaimer: The mention of any individual, company, organisation or other entity in this research report does not imply the violation of any law or international agreement, and should not be construed as such. Refer to the full disclaimer in the Report.
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