Wednesday, July 01, 2009

South Africa: Poaching figures contrast with country's reputation

Wyndham Hartley
1 July 2009


A Huge Number of Rhinos - 45 white rhinos and two endangered black rhinos - have been poached in the Kruger National Park in the past 15 months, Water and Environment Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said in a report that was tabled yesterday.

Sonjica's admission that so many rhinos had been poached is in sharp contrast to SA's international reputation of having been instrumental in saving the white rhino, particularly, from extinction.

In a response to a parliamentary question from Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Gareth Morgan, the minister also said that the plunder of abalone on our coast was continuing despite a ban on fishing for it.

Morgan asked how many incidents of poaching and of what animals had taken place last year and so far this year. The minister replied that last year one black rhino and 35 white rhinos were poached.

In the first three months of this year a further 10 white rhinos and another black rhino were illegally killed.

In addition to this information, the minister provided a comprehensive list of animals poached in the park, including buffalo, bushbuck, duiker, fish species, kudu, lion, giraffe and even hyena.

None of the national parks were immune from poaching and all those on the coast had significant abalone poaching. In Addo National Park near Port Elizabeth, for instance, there were 11 cases of abalone poaching last year. In the Table Mountain National Park there were 3645 abalone poached last year and more than 2000 were poached in the first three months of this year.

The marine shellfish alikreukel was also reportedly being poached in different coastal parks.

Sonjica said two officials, one from Table Mountain National Park and the other from the Kruger National Park were found to be involved in rhino and abalone poaching for reasons of "self enrichment". Both were dismissed from the department following disciplinary hearings and are also facing criminal charges.

In reply to a further question from DA MP Piet Pretorius, Sonjica said that since 2002, a total of 1642 abalone poachers had been arrested.

The majority of these arrests were in the Western Cape, then in the Eastern Cape and in Gauteng.

Hundreds of thousands of abalone had been recovered from the arrested poachers since 1994.

There were 21002 recovered abalone in 1994, peaking in 2007 at 907899, and then showing a huge decline last year to 56106. This is perhaps an indication the ban on abalone fishing is working simply because anyone found in possession of abalone will have to have got them illegally.

The value of the abalone retrieved since 2003 is R240m.

Sonjica said that all confiscated abalone was processed to a dried product and sold through the processor appointed by the department.


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