Alarm over ‘new gag’ on elephant poaching stats

Wed May 31, 2017 1:44 pm

Alarm over ‘new gag’ on elephant poaching stats

ImageCopyright: Tony Carnie


First there was a clampdown on rhino poaching statistics. Now the same is happening with information on elephant ivory poaching.

SA National Parks has refused to provide statistics on how many elephants have been poached in the Kruger National Park this year, referring queries instead to the national Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

But the DEA has also declined to release the latest figures – with officials suggesting that “you will have to wait until the next quarterly statistics are released by the Minister”.

The refusal to release these statistics follows a sharp increase in elephant poaching in the northern section of the Kruger National Park, where at least 80 elephants have been killed since early 2015 – the highest levels in more than three decades.

‘Mirrors a communication clampdown on rhino poaching stats’

The latest move also mirrors a communication clampdown by SANParks and the Department of Environmental Affairs on rhino poaching statistics that came into effect in early 2012, when South Africa’s horn poaching crisis was spiralling out of control.

Recently, when SANParks was asked for an update on elephant poaching statistics, a spokesperson replied, “May I request that you direct your enquiry to the Department of Environmental Affairs as the issue relating to statistics is the competency of the Minister of Environmental Affairs.

Asked whether the restriction on rhino poaching information now applied to elephants as well, SANParks said, “It applies to all species and areas within the Minister’s management.”

The department, also, did not respond in writing – though an official indicated that elephant poaching data would only be released by national Environment Minister Edna Molewa during the next quarterly update on rhino poaching. The last update (covering the last four months of 2016) was issued at the end of February, suggesting that no more official statistics will be published for another two months at least.

In March 2012, SANParks issued a new directive, “Please note that from now until further notice all matters related to rhino poaching will be addressed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). This will include all the periodic updates that SANParks has been giving to the media about rhino poaching statistics, all interviews related to rhino poaching and all issues of clarity or information.”

‘Nothing sinister in the decision’

Asked to explain the rationale for the information clamp, SANParks said at the time that, “There is nothing sinister in the decision to have all rhino poaching media and public issues going through the Department of Environmental Affairs as they have been going through SANParks.

“It is just an administrative arrangement which makes more sense because this is a national issue and not just a SANParks issue … The notice posted to media this morning was just a courtesy to ensure that you are not finding yourselves frustrated by seeming to be pushed from post to pillar when you want to make your inquiries. A little bit of proactive notice never hurt anyone surely. It is very unfortunate that a simple act of courtesy could give rise to so much suspicion.”

‘Poaching levels had soared to a new record of 1 215 deaths’

Following that directive, the department began to issue monthly statistics on rhino poaching, but in 2015 – after poaching levels had soared to a new record of 1 215 deaths the previous year- the policy changed again. Monthly reports were discontinued and stats are now only released every four months.

The government justified this move on the basis that: “There is no regulation or legal obligation on the department with regard to the timing of publishing statistics.”

The latest clamp on elephant information has raised concern that ivory poaching in Kruger and other national parks bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe is escalating rapidly.

Available statistics show that 24 elephants were poached in South Africa in 2015. This rose sharply to 46 last year – and shortly before the latest gag, SANParks reported that another 11 were killed in the first three months of this year. The latest figures are the highest recorded in decades. Though nearly 100 were poached during 1980, this was followed by a rapid decline towards zero or single figures annually thereafter.

During a media briefing last year Kruger chief ranger Nicholus Funda voiced concern about the sudden increase in elephant killings in the northern section of the park and suggested that the intense focus on rhino protection could be to the detriment of other species.

Dr Michelle Henley, chief executive of the Elephants Alive research group and member of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group has warned: “We need to take care that elephant poaching does not spiral out of control in much the same way that rhino poaching did a few years back.”

‘Concern as poaching in Africa is moving southwards’

Henley said she was also concerned about the apparent refusal to release statistics on elephant poaching.

“I can’t see that releasing the number of poaching deaths will put elephants in jeopardy and I think it is important for the public to realise that ivory poaching in Africa is moving southwards. I don’t think it’s a good thing that these figures are not released.”

Henley said Mozambique’s elephant populations had been targeted heavily by poachers and she saw very few elephants during a recent flight over Mozambican territory bordering Kruger.

The only significant herd sighted during the trip had behaved aggressively when a monitoring helicopter flew over the animals. She said elephants in the northern Pafuri section of Kruger Park also seemed “far more edgy” than other sections of the park.

Re: Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Wed May 31, 2017 5:28 pm

Interesting that photo, Lis...looks like a SANParks lady, and the pallets are labelled "lot no.", as in an auction?

Re: Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Wed May 31, 2017 5:38 pm

It is a Sanparks' shirt for sure and quite a lot of ivory. I wonder how much space there is O**

Re: Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Thu Jun 01, 2017 1:14 pm

My personal opinion is that the stats are being “hidden” to avoid criticism and partially because one can deem an element of incompetence plays a role. 0:

Re: Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Thu Jun 01, 2017 4:23 pm

:yes: If not, why?

Re: Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Thu Jun 01, 2017 5:33 pm

Personally only,I think the stats were "fudged" for last year's official rhino total. This is far more difficult to do if there is a monthly/bi-monthly update... :no:

Re: Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:26 am


2017-07-18 08:38 - Janine Avery

Rhino poaching might be on the decrease, however it appears elephant poaching is on the rise. But without up to date poaching figures from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) how do we know?

That is why a South African NGO has been forced to waste valuable resources collating information that should be readily available in order to separate fact from fiction.

Through reliable sources, including countless SAPS reports, OSCAP has arrived at their own poaching statistics. They maintain that 538 rhinos and 30 elephants have been poached in South Africa for the year up until the end of June 2017.

If poaching continues to follow this trend, elephant poaching figures for 2017 could soon exceed DEA’s total for 2016 of 46 poached elephants. Although OSCAP disputes this number, according to their information 78 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park in 2016.

On the other hand, OSCAP’s rhino poaching calculation for 2016 comes in at 1,102 carcasses compared to DEA’s 1,175 - close enough to give credibility to their figures.

“The lack of official statistics does not mean the poaching crisis has gone away. This is our national heritage and the South African public needs to be and should be kept informed,” says Kim Da Ribeira of OSCAP.

SEE: Alarm over 'new gag' on elephant poaching stats

Initially the DEA released poaching statistics on a monthly basis, but since early 2015 this process has been changed to a quarterly one. However the last update, in respect of 2016 was issued in February 2017, after a five-month gap since the previous stats were published at COP17 in September. Now in the middle of July, four and a half months later no statistics have been released by DEA.

"Withholding the information directly impacts on organisations who support anti-poaching units and private rhino owners with equipment and assistance, as they are not able to make informed decisions as to where their support can best be directed,” says Da Ribeira.

This lack of official poaching statistics goes hand in hand with a lack of reliable data regarding successful poaching prosecutions, with the minister's ‘success story’ surrounding conviction rates being questioned.

On the 8, May 2016, the DEA claimed a successful conviction rate of rhino of 78%, however this rate actually only took into account the cases that went to trial and saw a verdict and not the ones that never made trial.

This is coupled with a failure by government to effectively prosecute rhino poaching kingpins, as seen in a recent report from WildAid which states that of the supposed kingpins arrested in connection with rhino crimes, “Only two were sentenced to jail time, while more than 93% were granted bail. Shockingly, seventeen of them were repeat offenders, and more than 20% worked in the veterinary field.”

How can we really be sure where we stand in the war against poaching if no current poaching stats are released by DEA and conviction figures are distorted? What is the minister hoping to hide by keeping stakeholders in the dark?

In the words of, “Withholding stats breeds mistrust at a time when the DEA and our government can least afford it. Rather than hiding the figures, surely it’s better to tell the truth and educate the public on why this is such a challenging crime to address despite all the interventions?”

Re: Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Tue Aug 22, 2017 12:13 pm ... 68/video/1

Re: Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Tue Aug 22, 2017 8:13 pm

Elephant felled by bullet from poacher

Amanda Watson

SANParks says with almost no rhinos left in the area, poachers are coming for the ivory.

The first sign of the crime scene was the tip of an elephant’s trunk lying in the grass; the second was the gag-inducing, sickly sweet smell of death; and the third was the buzzing of thousands of bluebottle flies taking off as South African National Parks’ (SANParks) environmental crime scene investigators approached.

Among them was Colonel Leonard Malatji, the former detective branch commander of Phalaborwa police station. When he retired, he started working for SANParks and yesterday in the Kruger National Park Vlakteplaats section, he was the lead investigator in a three-week old elephant poaching case.

About 50km north of the Tropic of Capricorn, deep inside a sealedoff section of Vlakteplaats lay the carcass. It was not much more than a bag of skin and bones with its face hacked off for its prized ivory tusks.

One field ranger, who may not be named to protect his identity, estimated the dead bull was between 30 and 40 years old. He would have had sizeable tusks. Malatji and his team prepared to do an autopsy on what was left of the pachyderm.

“With almost no rhinos left in the area, poachers are coming for the ivory now,” he said.

Malatji has also attended to more than 20 rhino poaching scenes this year and there’s another poached elephant about six kilometres south of this one waiting for him. In their green SANParks uniforms and wearing only rubber gloves for protection but not masks, his team dismantled the putrefying carcass.

With a small butcher’s knife to carve through the thick skin and a winch mounted on an all-terrain vehicle to pull it off the skeleton, Malatji worked methodically from back to front.

An hour later, elbow-deep in liquid goo, he emerged with proof the animal was shot with a heavy-calibre weapon: a shattered rib clearly showing the passage of the bullet.

“Sometimes when a poacher shoots an elephant, they can run far away from the original scene.

“This one was shot in the lungs. He would have died a slow death,” Malatji said, before resuming his grim task. –

Re: Elephant Poaching in South Africa

Tue Aug 22, 2017 8:26 pm

0= @#$ :evil: