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Bull rhino dies during horn op

The treatment was successful and did not attribute to the rhino’s demise. More than 10 such treatments have been performed on the reserve thus far.

10 February 2012 | YADHANA JADOO

A BULL rhino died at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve yesterday during  a  controversial horn treatment that could have  saved the animal  from  poachers.

The rhino, named Spencer, estimated to be 22 years old, never recovered from anaesthesia after being darted with an M99 tranquilliser.

The treatment involved inserting an inedible pink dye and a compound called ectoparasiticides –  which is toxic to humans – into the rhino’s  horn while it was under sedation.  A  DNA sample was taken and three microchips and  a GPS tracking device were also inserted.

Veterinarian Charles van Niekerk, who administered the procedure, said he noticed the rhino experiencing arrhythmia after 45 minutes. The animal was not deeply sedated, however, and  an underlying heart condition combined with the anaesthesia could have caused heart failure.

“He just never recovered from the anaesthesia. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a heart attack,” he said.

The rhino’s age could  also have played a role in his death.

An autopsy will be performed.

Van Niekerk said they did not have the luxury of performing a clinical examination before putting an animal under sedation.

The actual treatment was successful and did not attribute to Spencer’s demise.

Marketing manager Lorinda Hern, the rhino’s  owner, said a cow and a calf had been killed on the reserve in 2010. This had prompted the  Rhino Rescue Project.

“We were driven by the desperate need to try and do something,” she said.

Several wildlife groups have  opposed  the initiative, saying that if the compound was toxic to humans, it could be also be for animals.

However Kerri Wolter from the Vulture Conservation Programme said she did not believe  it posed a risk.


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Rhino dies during anti-poaching treatment demo

Sapa | 09 February, 2012 14:11

A rhino died during a media demonstration of an anti-poaching treatment on Thursday, the Rhino Rescue Project said.

“He responded very well to the treatment and the procedure is 100 percent safe, but there are always huge risks when such a large animal is sedated,” said spokeswoman Lorinda Hern.

The rhino — named Spencer — died after veterinarians administered a drug to wake him up after a microchip and tracking device were implanted in his horn, said Hern.

The demonstration of the procedure was held at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, in the Cradle of Humankind.

Hern, who was also Spencer’s owner, said an anaesthetic was required for the treatment.

It was suspected that Spencer had an underlying heart condition and that the anaesthetic’s antidote may have triggered heart failure.

Spencer’s age could also have played a role, as he was estimated to be 22.

Hern, who was upset at the death, said poachers created a catch-22 situation in that poaching prevention treatments required sedation, which could in some cases pose a risk to the animals.

A post mortem was being conducted to establish the exact cause of the rhino’s death.


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Rhino poaching: what is the solution?

by Michael Eustace

In 1910, South Africa was said to have 100 white rhinos. With great care and good management, the number has increased to 19000 today. There are also 2000 black rhinos in the country. In 1960, there were 100000 in Africa outside South Africa, but by 1970 that population had fallen to 65000, and today there are only 3150.

If there had been no poaching from 1970, the black-rhino population in the rest of Africa, at its natural growth rate of 6% a year, would have increased to 700000 today. (There would not have been the habitat to accommodate that number of rhinos, but the arithmetic is interesting.)

There were 448 rhinos poached in South Africa last year, of which 252 were killed in the Kruger National Park. To this number can be added about 200 rhinos shot in the country by pseudo-trophy hunters for the horn trade, along with rhinos poached in Zimbabwe (28), Kenya (27) and Swaziland (two). This makes 705 rhinos out of an African population of 26000, or 2,7%.

The net growth of the rhino population is about 6% a year, so the current level of poaching has not meant a decline in the total population. The concern is that the level of poaching in South Africa has increased by 35% over the past year (333 in 2010), and if the growth in poaching continues at this rate, then the country is looking at 805 (3,8%) being poached and pseudo-trophy-hunted this year, and 1017 (4,7%) next year. (I have assumed that the levels of pseudo-hunting will remain the same.) In 2015, the levels of poaching in South Africa may exceed the natural population growth rate.


Some commentators are surprised at the current high level of poaching, but it is relatively low compared with the 1960s, when more than 8000 animals a year must have been poached outside South Africa. (This takes into account that rhinos were breeding at the same time as their numbers were being reduced by poaching.)

The Kruger National Park increased its anti-poaching effort last year by about 50% over the 2010 level. Also, the army was co-opted and now patrols the border with Mozambique. Nevertheless, rhinos poached have increased from 146 in 2010 to 252 last year, or by 73%. Twenty-one poachers were shot dead in skirmishes last year and 82 arrests were made. (The national rate of rhino-poaching convictions relative to arrests is less than 5%.)

While there have been some notable successes, the Kruger is clearly not winning the war. It has about 10000 rhinos, or 48% of the national herd, and with the animals having been wiped out in countries to the north of South Africa, the park has become the focus for poachers.

The Kruger is 20000km² in extent and has a 400km border with Mozambique. It would be prohibitively costly to patrol effectively. The park has 400 rangers on patrol – that is 50km² per ranger. I doubt that one ranger could effectively protect more than 10km² per day. This implies a force of 2000 rangers, or five times the current force. Assuming only half the park needs to be patrolled intensively, because rhinos are concentrated there, then 1000 rangers would be needed.

The cost, including overheads, of an additional 600 rangers would be about R80m a year – more than the annual surplus of SANParks, which was R52,6m for the year to March 2011. It is not possible for SANParks to finance 1000 rangers; even if it were, there would still be a weakness that undermines law-enforcement efforts in most parks in Africa: corruption among law enforcers.

Great rewards

The rewards of poaching are high and, at the bottom level, can be as much as R160000 for a horn-set of 4kg. (African rhinos have two horns, but for the sake of ease, a horn-set in this paper is referred to as “a horn”.) This prize can be won in one night by two poachers armed with a rifle, a dart-gun or poisoned cabbage and an axe, and it represents six years of wages for each of the two poachers, at Mozambique rates. That is if they are lucky enough to have a job.

In the Zambezi valley, the experience was that it did not matter how many poachers were shot and arrested – the rewards were so great that there were dozens of candidates to take the places of those shot or jailed. The rhinos ran out before the poachers. The 21 poachers shot last year represent a ratio of 8% of the rhinos killed and the five likely convictions a ratio of 2% of the rhino shot, assuming the national average. These numbers suggest there is a 90% chance of a poacher avoiding any penalty.

Only about 15 rhinos are shot in true trophy hunts in South Africa every year. About 200 are shot each year, mainly by Vietnamese, in pseudo-trophy-hunts where the hunter is solely interested in the horn for on-selling into the Asian market for horn. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), to which South Africa is a party, allows trophy hunting. However, it is clear to everybody including the Cites management authority in South Africa, that most of those horns are for the trade and not to hang on a wall.

The Department of Environmental Affairs, embarrassed by the loophole, has offered to close down these Vietnamese hunts but the game farmers are opposed to the closure because it is a source of revenue of about R48m a year and they argue, convincingly, that they need the money to justify keeping and growing rhino numbers and paying for their security. These farmers own 5000 rhinos, or 23% of the national herd.

There is also a valid argument that if these hunts were not allowed, the level of poaching would simply increase by 200 a year, which would then transfer income from farmers to criminals and not reduce the overall number of rhino deaths.

Medicine market

Rhino horn is sold into the Asian traditional medicine market where it is used in a cocktail of other substances to cure a range of ailments. The main market is China, and while there is some comment on Vietnam being a major market, it will also be a way into China. The Chinese have believed in rhino horn for centuries and although somewhat flimsy western medical research, paid for by a wildlife donor agency, claims that rhino horn is of no medicinal value, the Chinese buy it and pay no attention to western views. It is exotic, expensive, illegal (China banned its trade in 1993) and prestigious.

Only about 2g is used in each dose. It can be calculated that, in effect, less than 0,1% of the Chinese population use it and that is because of the prohibitively high price. The traditional doctor demands to see the retailer shave the horn in front of him as he fears substitutes. This suggests there would be no market for artificial substitutes.

The Vietnamese “trophy hunter” pays R80000/kg for horn. This price probably doubles by the time it reaches the wholesale market and doubles again in the retail market. Over the years, there has been comment that horn trades at about the same price as gold, by weight. The current price of gold is $52000/kg. The poacher, who might be a peasant, is being paid a maximum of $5000/kg, so there is a spare $5000/kg that can be used to pay a collecting agent and to bribe parks staff to stay away from a hunt or to inform on the whereabouts of rhino – or to bribe the police or army – before the total price of an informal hunt exceeds the cost of horn obtained in a formal Vietnamese hunt.

The gold price has risen by six times over the past 10 years, so the price of rhino horn might well have risen by a similar amount. The horn market is an imperfect one, spread over a large area, and there will be many prices at any one time.

Horn count

Rhinos live for about 38 years so, on average, about 2,6% die every year. With that assumption, about 676 animals died of natural causes last year in Africa as a whole. Africa has a total rhino population of 26000. While most of the horns collected from dead animals find their way into official stocks, some would have been collected and sold illegally to the trade. The 20% collected illegally or stolen from stocks would amount to 135 horns.

In addition, game farmers in South Africa are known to be selling horns illegally, and this is estimated at a further 100 horns. Add these horns to the original estimate of 705 and the total becomes 940. The purpose of this calculation is to estimate the total annual supply of horn. While we have no specific statistics on the demand, we can derive demand from the supply, as supply and demand must be equal.

Supply and demand are brought into equilibrium by the price of $40000/kg. Above that price, volumes sought decline; below it, price sellers are reluctant to sell. Thus, there were about 940 horns sold last year for an average price of $40000/kg at the retail level. Assuming the average weight per horn was 4kg, then 3760kg was sold for $150m at the retail level and $75m (R600m) at the wholesale price.

With the price having increased strongly in recent years along with other commodities, it is probable that speculators are buying and hoarding horn in the expectation of selling it at higher prices in the future. If speculators bought 20% of the volume, then the balance of 3008kg was sold into the medicinal market. At 10g for a course of treatment, there were 300800 patients that used horn, or 0,02% of the Chinese population of 1,3-billion. It is a minuscule proportion of that country’s population that use rhino horn.

Trade ban

Cites, which is made up of 175 parties, or countries, banned international trade in rhino horn in 1977. While well intentioned, the ban has been a miserable failure. All it did was to push the trade underground where it has thrived and made money for criminals. In the process it has impoverished parks, where the money rightfully belongs.

Southern Africa could supply the market with 676 horns a year from natural deaths alone. There are also stocks of 5000 horns collected over many years. Southern Africa could easily supply the market with 940 horns a year and increase this by 40 horns a year from the increment of natural deaths, provided poaching was controlled. It would be 19 years before existing stocks were exhausted.

In addition, private farmers in South Africa could provide the equivalent of 1000 horns, or 4000kg a year, by cropping their rhinos. The horn regrows at the rate of 0,8kg a year. The cropping process appears not to harm the animal provided about a third of the horn at the base is left behind when it is cut, which is the normal practice. In theory, Southern Africa could provide the market with 1940 horns a year, or more than twice the current demand.

This greatly increased supply could be achieved without the need for the killing of one rhino.

To trade internationally, Cites needs to approve a change in the rules, and for that to happen, 66% of the 175 member countries, or 116 countries, need to vote in favour of the change. The argument in favour of trade is compelling but Cites can be driven more by political game playing than logic. The wildlife donor agencies that attend the meetings and have their own agendas often shape the debate. The next meeting is due in March 2013 and a proposal needs to be made six months before then. South Africa, being the owner of 80% of Africa’s rhinos, is the obvious choice to make the proposal.

SANParks has asked the Department of Environmental Affairs to put the proposal to the next meeting, and the SADC Rhino Management Group has asked for the same action.

Rhino studies

The department has also asked for two studies, as a result of a ministerial rhino summit held in October 2010. The terms of reference were only published nine months later and the contract for one study awarded towards the end of last year.

The awarded study concerns South Africa’s internal trade in rhino horn, over which Cites has no control. There was a moratorium placed by the department on internal trade in February 2009 because horn was finding its way on to the illegal market.

There is no end-user market for horn in South Africa and without external trade being possible, internal buyers would be confined to speculators who would buy horn in the expectation of international trade being allowed by Cites at some stage in the future. This horn would need to trade at a large discount to the (illegal) market price because of the uncertainty over when it might become tradable.

Yields required on venture capital investments are about 25% a year. As there is only a Cites meeting every three years, speculators would require a discount of at least 50% if they anticipated having a waiting period of three years before disposal. At that discount, there will be a temptation for the originators and speculators to sell into the illegal market for a quick profit. To prevent this, there will need to be a set of cumbersome controls and audit procedures.

It is difficult to see why a study on the internal market in horn should be an issue worthy of costly delay.

The other study, which has not yet been awarded because of a lack of a suitable candidate, has to do with international trade. The terms of reference ask for estimates of the size of the market, prices, why people buy, whether there is a trading opportunity and how trade might operate. All these issues are covered in this paper and are, in any case, well known. Of course there are “nice to knows” but there is very little that we need to know that we don’t already know.

I fear that these largely irrelevant studies are a delaying tactic because the Department of Environmental Affairs is anxious about putting a controversial proposal to Cites that the donor agencies and their followers will oppose. The argument needs to be presented by top South African lawyers who would be a good investment: we are losing 448 rhino a year, which is worth $14m a year and we could be making $75m from the sale of 940 horns. The differential is $89m a year (R712m) or R2m per day.

If this loss continues for a further four years, which it looks set to do unless there is more urgency, the country will lose $356m (R2,8bn). The ministers of finance, planning, and trade and industry must surely support greater urgency.

Central selling

Rather than a free-for-all, it would make sense to have all sales of horn conducted through a central selling organisation (CSO) where the volumes can be controlled and the legality of the origin of the horn can be assured. The CSO would act as a broker and receive a small commission of, say, 5% on the value of the horn sold. The plan would be for it to make a small profit but for most of the proceeds to go to the suppliers. An essential component is to have market expertise to manage the sales, and there should be scope to replace managers when and if that becomes sensible.

The CSO could be owned by the owners of rhino, pro rata, roughly, to the number of animals they own or are custodians of – for example, SANParks, 45%; Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, 20%; South African private farmers, 20%; Namibia, 10%; Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Swaziland, 5%. The structure should probably not allow for one organisation to have control. The inclusion of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Swaziland is necessary because they need to be in the net and not selling independently against the best interests of the whole.

Monthly sales could be held at OR Tambo International airport. The managers could assess the demand in the market and call for a specific amount of horn in accordance with a quota system. Horn would then be offered to a selected range of buyers at a particular price per parcel on a “take it or leave it” arrangement, like De Beers used to have in the diamond market. It would not be an auction. All horn would be properly marked and have a DNA signature. Payment would be made to the undoubted suppliers and the horn immediately loaded on to an aircraft for export. There would be no room for laundering of illegal horn or corruption.

Horn buyers

The buyers would mainly be Chinese state pharmaceutical companies with whom the CSO had a partnership arrangement and who would buy and expect to retail at a 100% profit. Having a profitable investment in the industry, these pharmaceutical companies would see that the Chinese government closed down the illegal operators. To prevent collusion, there should be scope to include buyers other than China, such as Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea and Yemen. Given a legal trade, these countries would need to close down their illegal trade, and partnership arrangements would help with this.

In the long term, the CSO needs to be able to sell as much horn as is sustainably possible at as high a price as possible. Initially it might drop the price below $20000/kg to clear out the speculators and damage the illegal trade. Inevitably there will still be some illegal trade (200 horns a year) but the risks will be much higher because Africa will have more money for law enforcement and China will be harsh with the illegal trade. Profits to the criminals will also be much lower because illegal goods typically trade at a discount of about 30%; if the Chinese police are severe, it will be more.

If southern Africa was to sell 1200 horns a year or 4800kg at $20000/kg, it would produce income of $96m (R768m) a year, which is substantial in conservation terms and approximates the total annual tourism, retail and concession income of SANParks.

There are hundreds of donor agencies that profit from rhino being in crisis. Their outputs are seldom measured and there are far too many that are accountable to no one.

Their main strategy is to change the Chinese mindset away from the belief that horn is a useful medication. How much success have they had? The Chinese are not going to listen to the west on this subject. The strategy is futile.

Law enforcement

Another major focus is on encouraging increased law enforcement. This is unaffordable in Africa given the more important priorities such as food, health and education. Conservation comes way down on the list. Law enforcement is important but it is undermined by corruption in Africa and at currently affordable levels is not winning, even in rich and well-managed parks such as the Kruger.

The agents like to say that demand is insatiable and that there are too few rhinos left to satisfy the demand. They ignore price and the fact that price brings whatever level of demand there is into balance with supply.

They suggest that the introduction of a legal trade will stimulate the illegal trade, whereas the reverse is probable. A legal trade will satisfy the market and there will be little room for the illegal trade. The criminals will be left to trade at low prices and high risks and disruption by the CSO. It is unreasonable to believe that the traditional Chinese medicine market and the Chinese government would accommodate an illegal market run by criminals, given a legal trade.

At present, the only way to satisfy demand is to kill the animal. This will become unnecessary given a legal trade.


The agencies say that trade will benefit only a few wealthy individuals. The reality is that governments own 80% of the rhinos and national and provincial parks will be the beneficiaries of 80% of the profit. Governments will also collect taxes from private sector profits.

They suggest that if Africa traded, then endangered populations of rhino in the rest of the world would come under increased pressure. In fact, pressure would be taken off those animals because Africa would fill the market with legal goods at cheaper prices and there would be fierce policing of the illegal trade in China.

The experience in the crocodile, ostrich and vicuna markets is that commercial farming has taken poaching pressure off wild populations.

The agents refer to the “precautionary principle”, which means that because we do not fully understand the illegal trade and the prices and the routes and the people involved, we cannot risk a legal trade. The current trade is secret and by definition we are never going to know all the details, but we know enough. If for some unexpected and unlikely reasons a regulated trade did not reduce poaching, then it could be closed down. Hiding under the precautionary principle in the past has been at great cost to the rhino.

Some agencies suggest flooding the market with horn from stocks to bring down the price to a level where poachers find poaching no longer profitable. This cannot work on a sustainable basis as 100g for only 200000 Chinese would eliminate the entire stockpile in one year. In all probability, speculators would buy all the cheap supply knowing it could not be sustained and that there would be a large profit to be made when stocks ran out.


Dehorning as a solution has also been widely advocated, but all it does is to move poaching from populations that have been dehorned to populations where they have not. Furthermore, it is expensive and has to be done every two years because horn grows at the rate of 0,8kg a year and about 1,2kg is left behind in the stump after cropping. Thus the horn has a total weight of 2,8kg after two years, which is attractive to a poacher. Consider regular dehorning of the Kruger’s population of 10000 rhino. It is not practical, desirable or affordable.

Burning horn stocks is also a suggestion that the agencies make to help the rhino. Destroying stocks would reduce potential supplies to the market and encourage speculators to stockpile, which would increase prices and increase poaching. It makes no sense. Selling one horn from stocks may save the life of one rhino. Kenya was keen to destroy stocks and put a proposal to the last Cites meeting, which it later withdrew because there was no support for it.

Most donor agents appear not to like the idea of a regulated trade; maybe because it is the most likely solution, and a solution is not what they seek?

The public should be cautious about donating money to these agencies. They may be perpetuating the crisis.

Filtering poisoned horn on to the illegal market would have a dramatic effect on demand if the traditional Chinese medicine market began to fear there was a chance of horn doing more harm than good. While this has been discussed, there has been very little support for it but in the absence of trade and increased poaching, it may well happen.

About 150 live rhinos were sold by South Africa to China on the understanding that they were for educational purposes and not for commercial purposes. This was allowed within the Cites rules. However, it was later found that the horns were being shaved and that there was a business plan for commercial use. The exports were stopped by the Department of Environmental Affairs. Selling live rhinos to other countries is the wrong strategy and undermines Africa’s competitive advantage – one of the best that we have.

Benefits of reduction

Poaching will never be totally stopped, but if it is reduced to about 200 rhinos a year, the current population of 21000 rhinos in South Africa will double to 42000 over the next 12 years. The country could sell the annual increment to parks in southern Africa. Selling 1260 rhino a year would produce income of $39m (R312m). This would then increase South Africa’s total income from rhino to R1bn a year.

Assume that the World Bank, some other organisation or even a wealthy individual financed these sales over 12 years for a total investment of $500m. The financier could retain ownership of the animals and their increment of 6% a year. If the parks farmed the horn from half the animals, they would produce 8400kg of horn a year with a current wholesale value of $168m. Typically, this would pay for the anti-poaching and operational costs of 168 parks.

There would need to be an assurance that the rhino would be protected in these parks, and part of the transaction would need to be that an organisation such as African Parks or Frankfurt Zoo managed the protection of the rhino using existing park rangers. (There are often sufficient numbers of rangers, but they are poorly managed.) The operation would be self-financing and while the rhino were being protected, other animals in the park would be too. For a park to thrive, all that needs to happen is for poaching to be controlled. In most of Africa’s parks this is not happening, and most are in decline. One good man and a reasonable budget can make a big difference to a park.

The whole of Africa has fewer tourists visiting every year. Parks and wildlife are Africa’s competitive advantage – if we could attract an additional 1-million tourists a year, and they stayed for an average of 10 days at $200 per day, then that would generate income of $2bn a year.

We have the opportunity for turning around a conservation tragedy into the biggest contribution to conservation in Africa imaginable, with rhinos as the catalyst.

It is hard to believe that the world, as represented by Cites, can choose to continue with a failed strategy (the ban on trade), sacrifice 705 rhinos a year and fund criminals when there is the potential from a regulated trade to produce annual profits of billions for African conservation and secure 168 parks, all without the need to kill one rhino. South Africa should not waste time collecting more data. We have enough and the time has come to put a proposal to Cites.


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Bid to find solution to rhino poaching

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
Date: 08 Feb 2012

Pretoria – An urgent meeting has been held by top government officials in South Africa and Mozambique in a bid to find practical solutions to the scourge of rhino poaching.

The meeting, attended by Minister of Tourism in Mozambique, Fernando Sumbana Jnr and South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, follows the rise in rhino poaching that has seen the Kruger National Park (KNP) losing 252 rhino in 2011.

During the meeting earlier this week, Molewa stressed that poaching in the Kruger had escalated to such unacceptable levels that South Africa urgently required the full cooperation and support of Mozambique if the killing of rhino was to be significantly reduced.

Recently, Molewa announced various ways she had considered to reduce the attacks through the Mozambique border stretching between the Massingir and the Komatipoort areas.

Some of the means announced included:
Adding 150 field rangers to increase law enforcement officers in the KNP to 650;
Requesting the South African government to increase military presence in the KNP;
Improving coordinated national efforts to increase intelligence gathering, and;
The possibility of strengthening the border fence between Massingir and Komatipoort.

Sumbana emphasized the commitment of Mozambique to conservation, noting that the Mozambican government has prioritised law enforcement efforts that go beyond the narrow focus of rhino poaching.

“Mozambique is currently pondering legislation that will elevate the offence of wildlife poaching to a criminal offence carrying heavier sentencing rather than the current offence of damage to property,” Sumbana said, adding that Mozambique’s natural resources are being plundered by organised Mafia.

Further to the proposed legislation, a new elite highly trained National Anti-poaching Unit has been formed and the first recruits will be graduating shortly and deployed in priority poaching areas.

Sumbana further said that the Mozambican government has passed a decree creating a flexible state-owned agency similar to that of SANParks.

“This will assist with management effectiveness and allow greater flexibility in sourcing funding than is currently the case.”

The meeting also highlighted the success of collaborating with Mozambique on the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) with reduced rhino poaching incidents and the difficulties of erecting a fence between Massingir and Komatipoort.

South African National Parks CEO, Dr David Mabunda, recently visited the Head of the Transfrontier Conservation Areas Unit in the Ministry of Tourism in Mozambique, Dr Bartolomeu Soto, to discuss the idea of including the 220 000-hectare Greater Lebombo Conservancy to act as an effective buffer for the KNP southern section linking with Mozambique.

The idea has since morphed into a Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) in line with the signed treaty that created the GLTP.

Article 3(2) of the signed treaty envisioned the TFCA in Mozambique to include “the Massingir and Corumana areas, as well as the interlinking regions” thus creating an immediate framework for bilateral cooperation between the two countries for the inclusion of the Greater Lebombo Conservancy.

The two ministers agreed to cooperate bilaterally to ensure that the planned TFCA was realised and concluded speedily. – BuaNews

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Mozambique considers tougher sentences for poaching

The Mozambican government is considering harsher sentences for convicted rhino poachers and is launching a new elite National Anti-Poaching Unit


Published: 2012/02/08 11:05:58 AM

MOZAMBIQUE was “pondering” legislative changes that would elevate the crime of wildlife poaching to a category of offence that carried heavier sentencing than the current offence of “damage to property”, the Mozambican Transfrontier Conservation Area and the South African National Parks (SANParks) said in a joint statement late yesterday.

Much of the rhino poaching that saw a record 448 rhinos poached in SA last year, has taken place in the Kruger National Park that borders Mozambique and with that country’s Limpopo National Park and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park forms the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Earlier this month three Mozambicans were sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for rhino poaching.

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and Mozambique’s Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana Jnr held an urgent meeting in Pretoria on Monday to discuss “viable” solutions to rhino poaching. The Kruger National Park last year lost 252 rhinos to poachers.

Nongovernmental organisations have repeatedly pointed out that the sentences meted out to those convicted of poaching in Mozambique are far lighter than those handed down in SA, saying parity would aid the fight against rhino poaching.

Mr Sumbana said Mozambique was committed to conservation and had prioritised law enforcement efforts regarding wildlife crime. Mozambique’s natural resources were being plundered by organised crime, he said.

The country was also about to launch a new elite national anti-poaching unit and the Mozambican government had passed a decree creating a “flexible state-owned agency” similar to SA’s SANParks that would assist with effective management and allow greater flexibility when it came to finding funding.

Ms Molewa has recently announced several measures to further protect the Kruger National Park, SA’s most iconic national park, including increasing the field ranger complement to 650, upping the military presence in the park, improving the coordination of intelligence gathering and improving border fencing.

Rhino poaching has escalated since 2008 as rising demand in Asia for their horns led to an increase in illegal hunting. The street value of rhino horn has soared to about $65000 a kilogramme, making it more expensive than gold and platinum, as a belief — with no basis in science — has taken hold in parts of Asia that eating it can cure or prevent cancer.

One of the largest “gaps” in SA’s arsenal against rhino poaching and other “wildlife crime” was a lack of training among enforcement officials, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) said yesterday.

The illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products, globally, is a “soaring black market worth an estimated $10bn a year”, according to the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, a voluntary global coalition of governments and organisations. Demand for exotic pets, rare foods, trophies and traditional medicines is driving many species to the brink of extinction, threatening biodiversity and contributing to the spread to humans of diseases, such as SARS, avian flu and the Ebola virus.

Ms Patterson-Abrolat was speaking at the East Rand launch of a partnership between the EWT and the Airports Company of SA (Acsa) aimed at decreasing wildlife and wildlife product trafficking into and out of SA’s main ports of entry and exit.

“It all comes back to awareness. (Security staff such as those who operate luggage and hand luggage scanners) don’t know what they are looking for, why they are looking for it, or what to do if they find it,” said EWT Airport Wildlife Programme manager Claire Patterson-Abrolat. The EWT has offered training to staff.

According to the Department of Environmental Affairs in the 2010-11 financial year environmental law enforcement officers opened 738 criminal dockets, handed 234 cases to the National Prosecutions Authority, made 1988 arrests, secured 72 arrests, negotiated 19 plea bargains and received R867010 in admission of guilt fines.

Acsa spokeswoman spokeswoman Unathi Batyashe-Fillis said the spike in rhino poaching over the past two years, and the rise in identified cases of rhino horn smuggling globally, was a compelling reason for the company to do more to fight these crimes.

Rhino poaching was an excellent “flag” to highlight the poaching and illegal trade in flora and fauna from the iconic pachyderms to SA’s endemic colophon beetles (the stag beetle family), and even timber, said Ms Patterson-Abrolat. With Reuters .



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Mozambique: Local Rhino Poachers Sentenced to 25 Years

2 February 2012

Maputo — Three Mozambican citizens were each sentenced on Tuesday to 25 years imprisonment by a court in the South African town of Phalaborwa for poaching rhinoceros in the Kruger National Park.

Cited by the South African Press Agency (SAPA), the President of South African National Parks (SANPARKS), David Mabunda, said that the three Mozambicans, named as Anselmo Baloi, Jawaki Nkuna and Ismael Baloi, were arrested in July 2010, in possession of two rhino horns, an automatic rifle, a hunting gun, an axe and a variety of ammunition.

Mabunda said the sentences were more severe than in previous cases, and were intended to end a signal that South Africa, including its courts, takes rhino poaching very seriously.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa welcomed the sentences. Cited by the official government agency, BuaNews, she said the sentence would send a strong message to poachers. She was optimistic that the sentence, coupled with increasing anti-poaching measures by the country’s law enforcement agencies, would serve as a deterrent.

Other recent measures taken in the fight against poaching include the deployment of troops from the South African National Defence Force to monitor the 350km of national border in the Kruger National Park. Conservation specialists have been stationed at South African ports to check on attempts to trade in endangered species.

The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs and SANPARKS are stepping up patrols in the Kruger Park with the deployment of an additional 150 rangers.

The South African authorities also announced that 232 suspects were arrested in connection with rhino poaching in South Africa in 2011. These included 194 rhino poachers, 24 receivers of rhino horns, 12 couriers and two exporters.

The deputy director-general for biodiversity and conservation, Fundisile Mketeni, told South African parliamentarians that 122 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2009, rising to 333 in 2010 and to 448 in 2011.


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Minister hails poachers’ sentences

The 25-year prison sentences handed to three rhino poachers by the Phalaborwa Regional Court were welcomed by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa on Wednesday.

“Minister Molewa believes the court sentence will send a strong message and hopefully act as a deterrent to poachers and would-be poachers,” her spokesman Albi Modise, said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Aselmo Baloyi, Jawaki Nkuna, and Ismael Baloyi – all Mozambicans – received the sentence after being found guilty of illegally hunting rhino in the Kruger National Park in July 2010.

The three were arrested, together with another man, in possession of two freshly chopped rhino horns, an assault rifle, a hunting rifle, and an axe.

The fourth accused tried to escape, but was re-arrested and died in custody last year.

Modise said the poachers’ sentencing coincided with government increasing its anti-poaching activities to safeguard rhino.

These included SA National Defence Force patrols along the 350km national border in the Kruger National Park, and the deployment of conservation specialists at ports where rhino horns could be imported or exported.

“The department and SA National Parks (SANParks) are also in the process of beefing up patrols in the Kruger National Park by deploying an additional 150 rangers,” Modise said.

The South African government was also engaging with Mozambican authorities to improve cross-border law enforcement.

On Tuesday, SANParks executive David Mabunda welcomed the combined sentence of 75 years.

“This is an indication that, as a country, we are taking more stringent measures in the fight against rhino poaching,” he said.

Limpopo police commissioner Lieutenant-General Simon Mpembe warned that the fight against poaching would be intensified this year. – Sapa


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Trio sentenced for rhino poaching

January 31, 2012, 11.03am

Johannesburg – Three rhino poachers were sentenced to 25 years each by the Phalaborwa Regional Court on Tuesday, said a spokesperson from SANParks (South African National Parks).

The three – all Mozambican citizens – were found guilty of illegally hunting rhino in the Kruger National Park in July 2010.

SANParks CEO David Mabunda said the sentence was harsher than it had been in other similar cases.

“This is an indication that, as a country, we are taking more stringent measures in the fight against rhino poaching,” he said.

Aselmo Baloyi, Jawaki Nkuna and Ismael Baloy were also found guilty of possessing an illegal firearm (an automatic rifle), possession of a firearm (a hunting rifle) and possession of ammunition.

They were caught with two freshly chopped rhino horns, an assault rifle, a hunting rifle and an axe.

Mabunda said that last year 232 suspected poachers were arrested, including 26 who died in fights with the authorities. – Sapa



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DEA, NGOs battle with rhino poaching

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
Date: 27 Jan 2012
By Francis Hweshe

Cape Town – The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has revealed that 232 suspects were arrested in connection with rhino poaching last year.

The suspects consisted of 194 rhino poachers, 24 receivers of rhino horns, 12 couriers and two exporters. No buyers were arrested.

Deputy Director General on biodiversity and conservation in the department, Fundisile Mketeni, told MPs on Thursday that the crime was grossing about R160 billion annually.

He said that between 2009, 2010 and last year, 122; 333, and 448 rhinos were poached respectively. He projected that about 300 rhinos were likely to be poached this year.

He highlighted that the North West and Limpopo provinces have the highest numbers of poached rhinos.

Mketeni was speaking during a briefing to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs by over a dozen concerned organisations and individuals.

The organisations highlighted several problems on rhino poaching as well as proposing possible solutions.

Mketeni said that most of the poached rhino horns were destined for Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and China.

He indicated that South Africa was at various stages of signing bilateral agreements with these countries for purposes combating the crime.

Mtekeni complained about a lack of coordination between his department and its provincial counterparts as well as other related departments in dealing with problem.

He called for his department to be given centralized powers which would allow them to decisively deal with the matter.

Mtekeni said that the department should have its own officers trained along the lines of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

“We want to have our own intelligence and use it the way we want,” he said, indicating that these would be able to directly pursue rhino poaching syndicates outside the country.

He said they planned to deploy their own officials at ports of entry as well as to train customs officials to help detect suspects about to leave the country.

He called for the Department of Public Works to fix, electrify and insert an electrical detection system on the fence between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique where rhino poaching activities were frequent.

Committee chairman Advocate Johnny de Lange told Mtekeni that his department could take certain powers from provincial departments and exercise them at a national level.

De Lange said that action should be taken to prevent the further killing of rhinos. – BuaNews


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Suspected Rhino Poacher out on bail

30 January, 2012

Rhino poaching woes seem to be a never-ending tale. The police’s organised crime unit members arrested Jan Louis Lessing, 58, manager of Entabeni Game Reserve at Naboomspruit, who was found was in possession of three rhino horns, four elephant tusks as well several fire-arms. Lessing was arrested on Wednesday and appeared in Naboomspruit Magistrate’s Court on Thursday. He was released on R3000 bail and the case was remanded to March 29 for further investigation. Police spokesperson Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi said the arrest followed intensive investigation by the Hawks into unrelenting rhino poaching in the area.


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