Call for regular rhino poaching statistics

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One who has strong feelings about the lack of regular updates on rhino poaching in South Africa is Dave Bryant, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow forestry, fisheries and environment minister.

The last official statistics came from Minister Barbara Creecy’s Department of Forestry and Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) in August 2022. They showed South Africa, as a whole, lost 259 rhino to poachers in the first six months of 2022 – 10 more than in the corresponding period the previous year.

Bryant maintains the DFFE and SANParks, the national natural heritage custodian, are not helping the ongoing battle against loss of the iconic Big Five species.

He told defenceWeb the issue of monthly reporting of rhino – and other notable species losses, including elephant – is repeatedly raised in Parliament.

“We’ve been told by SANParks representatives they are under no obligation to provide monthly statistics and do not have the capacity to undertake monthly counts. Reports are provided quarterly.”

This is in stark contrast to when Edna Molewa and Edna Mokoyane were ministers of what was then the Department of the Water and Environmental Affairs from 2010 to 2018. Monthly updates were the order of the day but this turned into quarterly and now, seemingly, once a year under Creecy who succeeded Mokonyane.

Bryant is of the opinion that, notwithstanding the “no obligation” cachet, SANParks has an ongoing tally of rhino numbers. “When asking for these in meetings they are readily provided.”

He, along with others including Stoprhinopoaching, Rhino Review and a number of conservation NGOs (non-government organisations), would “dearly like to have rhino statistics monthly” as it makes for better prevention planning and will assist in fundraising.

Bryant welcomed Creecy’s commitment to a confidential briefing on State-owned rhino horn stockpiles which he sees as “shedding light” on ongoing allegations of pilferage.

He agrees with her undertaking to implement mandatory polygraph testing for Kruger National Park rangers, expected to be operational later this year. “Add to that, 80 ranger posts in Kruger which urgently need filling if any headway is to be made in saving the park’s rhino population and there are some moves in the right direction,” he said.