Lowvelder: Anti-poaching experts wants national statistics on rhino poaching released
Environmental organisations plans legal action against minister Edna Molewa, to release poaching statistics more regularly.
MBOMBELA – Unconfirmed figures suggest that more than 666 rhino have been poached since the beginning of the year.
The Department of Environmental Affairs used to release these figures twice a month, but now only does so on a quarterly basis.
onservation organisations are considering approaching the Constitutional Court to force the minister of the department, Ms Edna Molewa, to defend her stance against the Freedom of Information Act.
National poaching statistics were last released on May 10.
Molewa announced that more rhino had been poached in South Africa during the first quarter of 2015 than in the same period last year. “By the end of April 2015, the number we lost to poachers was 393 for the whole country.”
This represented an 18 per cent increase, according to Molewa. She added that 290 of the 393 had been poached in the Kruger National Park (KNP).
Environmental organisations like Oxpeckers, Outraged Citizens Against Poaching (Oscap), Save the Rhino and others said at the time that the statistics were wrong and that 157 more poaching incidents should be added to the statistics, to bring the national total to 550.
Molewa defended her decision to release the figures on a quarterly basis, by arguing that “criminals were also consumers of the information we release”. She castigated the media during the public briefing, saying it was “giving fodder to the organised criminal syndicates involved in the illegal wildlife trade”.
Director of Oscap, Ms Allison Thomson, said, “In the past we were able to get some information underhand, but this time around people are straightforward saying they are too scared to assist us. They have been threatened from very high up not to talk to the media. What I can announce here today is that our research shows that national statistics are standing currently on more than 666.”
Rhino in KNP. Photo Richard Prinsloo, Africa Wild
Oscap and Africa Wild are considering approaching the court in an attempt to force Molewa’s department to communicate statistics more regularly. Spokesperson of Africa Wild, Mr Richard Prinsloo, told Lowvelder, “It is an absolute scandal that the minister is allowed and assumes that she has the right to withhold such important information.”
Thomson added, “We have identified our biggest problem in fighting the scourge of poaching. It is corruption and the lack of political will to work against poaching. We are all bashing our heads against the wall.“
Project Rhino KwaZulu-Natal released the figure of rhino poached in the province in Pietermaritzburg recently. It indicated that the number of rhino killed from January 1 to June 15, was almost the same as last year’s for the same period. According to the conservation group, KwaZulu-Natal lost 49 rhino, two up from 47 over the same period last year.
State-owned parks have been hardest hit this year, with a reported total of 41 being poached in these reserves, compared to 31 last year and eight on private land. Last year 16 were poached on private reserves.
The next update by the department is only expected in September.