South Africans Begin to Call for Moratorium on Trophy Hunting of Rhinos

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South African voices sound the alarm.


As connections between the South African trophy hunting industry and illegal rhino horn trade continue to be uncovered, some citizens say it is time to put an end to trophy hunting of rhinos.

Earlier this month, Africa Geographic reporter Ian Michler wrote the following in a blog post entitled “End the Mockery Now”:

Developments over the last week in South Africa’s rhino poaching crisis clearly indicate that trophy hunting is one of the largest contributing factors to the ongoing slaughter. This is the cue for the professional hunting bodies, both in this country and abroad, to play their part in attempting to solve this sorry saga. They need to call for an immediate moratorium on all hunting of rhino.

In a previous post, Michler asks:

If the current rate of decline from poaching constitutes a crisis that has elicited concerns for the survival of the species, why then for every two killed illegally do we allow another one to be killed legally? The thinking is nonsensical and defies all logic. And what chances the hunting fraternity will come forward with offers of a moratorium?

And it turns out Michler’s views are shared by others.

Over the weekend, I received the following statement from the Anti-Poaching Group of Southern Africa (a private initiative that supplies intelligence to private and government anti-poaching units):

The members of Anti Poaching Intelligence Group Southern Africa call for a moratorium on “Trophy Rhino Hunting” in the Republic of South Africa, until such time as more stringent controls by an independent body can be implemented.

It has become abundantly clear that current controls and legislation of the Provincial Nature Conservation Bodies in the various provinces of South Africa are wholly inadequate. The current ethics committee’s of P.H.A.S.A and C.H.A.S.A have no legal standing, and are only able to expel members that have contravened Nature conservation ordinances. Professional Hunters are still able to conduct hunts with other registered outfitters.

The issuing of permits to purchase and transport white rhinos to a major suspect awaiting trial on various charges relating to scam “Trophy rhino hunts” are a warning that all is not well in Limpopo Department of Nature Conservation, and we call for further investigation of this department by SARS and the Hawks.

The recent arrest of another professional hunter and outfitter involved in scam “Trophy rhino hunts” in Northwest Province, by the Northwest Department of Nature Conservation also warrants investigation by SARS and the Hawks.

We believe these scam “Trophy Rhino Hunts” could well have been the” spark that started the prairie fire “.

While current CITIES legislation has made the White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) Appendix II for populations in South Africa and Swaziland, this is only for allowing international trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations and in hunting trophies.

We do not believe White rhinos hunted for their horns and exported to Vietnam, China, Thailand and Singapore to be used in T.C.M. can be classed as “trophies”.

Meanwhile, the list of trophy hunters arrested and/or otherwise implicated in the illegal rhino horn trade continues to grow:

  • July 2011: Media investigations revealed that safari operator Marnus Steyl is believed to be a major player in the rhino horn trading racket involving Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai. As part of the trophy hunting scam, prostitutes from Thailand were apparently trafficked into South Africa to pose as “rhino hunters”.
  • February 2011: After killing two rhinos on a legal hunt on a farm in Musina, a pair of Vietnamese nationals were arrested at the Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria when they were found to be in illegal possession of four rhino horns. They had arrived at the airport in a private helicopter belonging to the game farmer. At least one of the smugglers was released on bail.
  • January 2011: Mossel Bay hunter Christaan Frederik van Wyk was ordered to pay a fine of R30,000 (US $4,246) for illegally shooting a white rhino. The conviction stemmed from a hunting expedition with a Vietnamese client (Nguyen Tien Hoang) in Leshoka Thabang Game Lodge, on April 27th, 2006.
  • December 2010: An article in Bloomberg noted that South African hunter Peter Thormahlen has had at least two tangles with the law regarding involvement with the illegal rhino horn trade. In the first case, he was said to have paid a “token” fine, and his second case was dismissed.
  • October 2010: The criminal trial of safari operators George Fletcher and Gert Saaiman, along with professional hunter Frans van Deventer raised hopes that meaningful legal action would be taken against syndicate crimes. However, the case was thrown out by the North Gauteng High Court (the State’s star witness was apparently intimidated into not testifying) .

Indeed, it seems only a moratorium has a chance of stopping the madness: Even rhino horn trafficking suspect Dawie Groenewald has been issued hunting permits, allowing for the legal killing of rhinos. (Take a look at copies of the permits here.)


Image: © iStockphoto.com

Statement reprinted with permission, Anti-Poaching Intelligence Group of Southern Africa

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Rhonda S. Radford

    I completely agree. Let’s put pressure on mainstream media to cover rhino conservation issues to educate the public and get them to care. I’m just one person, and I’ve written almost 300 fictional rhino stories,and I’m in the slow process of building a website/ blog. My goal is to educate children and others and get them to care about conservation issues. I may be naive, but I still think one person can make a difference. I hope people will get behind me. I live with severe chronic pain,but that’s how important I feel this issue is. We may learn something about saving our own humanity in the process by trying to save endangered species. Some species of rhino are on the brink of extinction solely through human greed. Let’s educate the
    public by getting them to care.