The fate of South Africa’s rhinos continue to hang in the balance as the South African government dithers over releasing rhino poaching statistics.
Three times in as many days,the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) have postponed a scheduled media briefing of the rhino poaching information.
In response to concerns raised previously over the Minister of Environment, Edna Molewa’s lack of communication in relation to rhino poaching stats, the DEA last week published an official statement promising to soon “provide progress in the fight against rhino poaching”.
But each time a date was set, they postponed. The latest postponement, announced just before Friday’s intended briefing, did not provide any reasons for the delay and simply stated that “a new date will be communicated soon.”
Allison Thomson of OSCAP says: “The lack of transparency with regards to poaching stats is debilitating for rhino owners who need to make decisions about the safety and security of their animals”
The Department, however, insists they remain “committed to transparency with regards to the release of information on rhino poaching.”
Thomson pointed out that in the past the Minister used to publish rhino poaching stats on a monthly basis. This then changed to quarterly updates during the last two years, however no poaching statistics have been released since COP17 in September 2016.
Media and NGOs have reported that they are not receiving notification on information regarding rhino poaching in spite of being on the DEA’s mailing list.
Audrey Delsink, Executive Director of the Africa branch of Humane Society International says despite repeated written requests for notification to DEA officials have yet to respond.
In the meantime, the Minister has asked for public comment on a new draft that calls for a regulated trade in rhino horn. She hopes to legally export rhino horn on the basis that a person from another country who visits South Africa is allowed to export no more than two horns for ‘personal purposes’.
Thomson says: “The Department’s capacity or lack thereof with regards releasing the stats timeously raises the question: If the Department is not in a position to validate and report back on poaching figures on a regular basis how then do they believe they have the capacity to monitor trade?”