Rhino Poaching: Minister of Environmental Affairs progress report

Water and Sanitation

12 November 2012
Chairperson: Mr J de Lange (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Minister of and Department of Environmental Affairs provided a report on rhino poaching. Poaching and arrests, court convictions statistics were provided. The briefing also covered the impact of legislative interventions, a state of the provinces report, stockpile and conservation management interventions.

Members raised questions on the integrated permitting system, court cases, the large number of poaches in November 2012, the high number of Czech and Polish pseudo-hunters and the structure of agencies. Also questioned were the unfilled vacancies, security measures, arrests of South Africans, applications for the trade of rhino horn and permitting. Other concerns related to intercepted shipments, the pseudo-hunting video, commitment of the police, plea-bargaining, state witnesses, national database and stockpiles.

The Chairperson found it difficult to assess this progress report but saw many good things and huge improvements in certain areas. The problem was that the report narrowly concentrated on the DEA and did not present the bigger picture. He suggested DEA consult key role players in the structures linking DEA to the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, before giving a briefing. It was important as it would inform the cluster when looking at the budget. Likewise, the report on the state of provinces was inadequate. National Department needed to sit down with each province to get a full breakdown of its problems. This would aid the Department and the Committee in requesting funds from Treasury and ensure everyone was on the same page. The national database was needed to track poaching, stockpiles and information on rhino. He said legal regulations were working as seen in the down-side trends. He did have a problem with how the plea-bargaining tool was being used, especially when it was not used on the top guys. These people needed to be cleaned out of the system.

The second briefing was on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) where the history of rhino proposals at CITES were covered and current CITES discussions on the rhino. Also discussed were the TRAFFIC report on the trade nexus, the experience of the African elephant ivory trade, the panel of experts report, and CITES proposals on anti-use.

On the Chairperson noting that nothing had been said about the rhino and CITES, the Minister said that the  Rhino Issue Manager (RIM) had been operating diligently. The RIM had come up with proposals on rhino horn trade which still needed some thought and tightening up so the Department had missed the deadline for CITES.

The Committee could not understand why an application was not put in given that trade would not happen immediately and that time could be used to get the necessary systems in place. An application would allow for discussion and make interested people alert. The DEA had missed the boat and would now have to wait until 2016. An application could have been put in even without concluding discussions with stakeholders. The Chairperson asked why the Department had not alerted the Committee about missing the deadline. SA would now be politically vulnerable until 2016 by not showing their intent. The Department had given too much weight to a few opposing groups with a “pure view” of life. Policy was not made on the basis of the extreme. The problem was going to deepen. There were strong people in support and consensus across the party-political divide on trading mechanisms as was used in the case of elephants. Policy decisions needed to be made sooner rather than later.

Meeting report

 

The Chairperson said this meeting was a report back on the progress since a closed meeting on rhino poaching. He made it clear that only Members were to receive the full package of documents and not the public as some documents outlined the modus operandi of the police and it needed to be protected so as not to land up in the hands of the criminals they were working against. He asked the Department to err on the side of transparency and noted that Members were free to ask questions, as it was their prerogative. He said policy issues were open for discussion but the modus operandi was closed so as not to jeopardise the fight against rhino poaching.

Progress Report on Rhino Poaching
Mr Fundisile Mketeni, DEA Deputy Director-General (DDG): Biodiversity And Conservation, gave an outline of the presentation which would cover poaching statistics and arrests, court convictions, DEA liaison with enforcement agencies, impact of legislative interventions,
state of the provinces report, stockpile management and conservation management interventions.

Mr Mketeni started by looking at the poaching statistics noting the annual increase from 83 in 2008 to 549 for 2012 (the figure in the graph of 528 was outdated). He mentioned the incidents of poaching per province stating that Kruger National Park (KNP) was a hotspot. The monthly number of poaching incidents for 2012 were provided. There were 224 arrests for 2012, while in 2011 there were 232 arrests and 165 in 2010. This information was also broken down per province.

Mr Mketeni looked at court cases, convictions and nationalities in terms of the finalised rhino matters for February 2011 to March 2012. Twenty six of the accused had been convicted, eight cases in which convictions were for possession of rhino horns, four cases in which convictions were for dealing in rhino horns and six cases in which convictions were for illegal hunting of rhinos. There were eight cases where accused were convicted and sentenced to a fine, 12 cases where accused were convicted and sentenced to direct imprisonment without the option of a fine, seven where the accused were acquitted, mostly due to lack of evidence, and four incidents where the cases were withdrawn or struck from the roll.

The summary for finalised rhino matters for April 2012 to March 2013 showed 22 cases in which there were convictions: six cases were withdrawn or struck from the roll, eight cases of conviction for possession of rhino horns, five cases of conviction for dealing in rhino horns and eight cases of conviction for illegal hunting of rhinos. Further, there were two cases in which conviction was only for the illegal possession of firearms or ammunition, 11 cases where the accused were convicted and sentenced to a fine, 16 cases where the accused were convicted and sentenced to direct imprisonment without the option of a fine, 39 cases of the accused being convicted and two cases where the accused were acquitted.

Mr Mketeni said of the accused, there were 51 foreign nationals including 29 Mozambique nationals, ten Vietnamese, five Chinese, three from Thailand, three Zimbabweans, two Congolese and one Malawian national.

Mr Mketeni outlined the current structures, showing linkages between DEA and provincial conservation authorities and noted the operation of working groups, to deal with issues of enforcement: MINTECH, for accounting officers to meet and MINMEC, for Ministers to meet. The National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit (NWCRU) was the interface for enforcement agencies, and the National Wildlife Information Management Unit (NWIMU) dealt with intelligence information, investigations and profiling to take to the right agencies. Other structures shown was the current National Wildlife Crime Reaction initiative. The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) and the role of the National Prosecuting Authority was noted.

Improvements of the current initiative/structure were:
▪ the DEA was finalising the appointment of a W
ildlife Information Management Unit,
▪ the Priority Committee on Rhino was meeting on a monthly basis,
▪ the National Operating Committee working on review of the implementation plan for reviewed strategy,
▪ improved Provincial Joints communication and cooperation with regular meetings in provinces;
▪ the finalisation of the SAPS/
Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) Standard Operating Procedures (SoP) implementation guidelines
▪ the DEA being part of the JCPS Cluster;
▪ the Rhino Implementation Plan finalised

.

Mr Mketeni explained the impact of the legislative interventions, specifically the
amended norms and standards, saying the hunting by Vietnamese citizens was suspended awaiting finalisation of inspections, the amended norms and standards came into effect April 2012 and were used in the Thai case. The reduction in the number of applications to hunt white rhino suggested a possible link to increase in poaching. He noted the magistrate in the Thai case used all the amendments in his sentencing.

Looking at the impact of the legislative provisions on the
prohibition on trade in rhino horn, within South Africa, the prohibition was published for public participation on 8 August 2008 and a moratorium was published for implementation on 3 February 2009. There was a significant increase in poaching but a feasibility study showed no evidence of a linkage. The economic recession/ increase in disposal income in Asia meant that legislative interventions to tighten control were needed to curb the increase in illegal activities.

Mr Mketeni turned to the
restrictions on live exports to appropriate and acceptable destinations noting that in July 2011, MINMEC approved restrictions relating to appropriate and acceptable destinations for the live export of rhinoceros. 101 live rhino were exported to Asia from 2007 to 2011 through permit systems, live rhino exports were endorsed at OR Tambo from 2007 to 2012 (June 2012) and 236 white rhino were exported to various countries (105 to China).

In his state of provinces reported, Mr Mketeni noted the information was provided directly from provinces and so may be inaccurate but DEA did their best to verify the information.
▪ Looking at the Eastern Cape’s Permit Office, there were 13% vacancies, 13 filled posts, two vacant funded posts and seven contract permit officers. In Enforcement in the Eastern Cape, there were 35.5% vacancies, 29 filled posts and 16 vacant unfunded posts and no scientific services unit.
▪ In Gauteng’s Permit Office, there were 13% vacancies, 13 filled posts and 2 vacant funded posts. In Enforcement in the Eastern Cape, there were 28% vacancies, 10 filled posts and four vacant funded posts with three filled posts in the Scientific Services unit.
▪ In KZN, there were three filled posts, and no vacancies in the Permit Office. In Enforcement there were 845 filled posts, including game rangers with176 vacant. In the scientific services unit there were 58 filled posts and 29 vacant posts.
▪ In Mpumalanga’s Permit Office there were 63% vacancies, four filled posts and seven vacant unfunded posts. In Enforcement, there were 68% vacancies, 28 filled posts, 57 vacant funded posts and three vacant unfunded posts. Enforcement in Mpumalanga was bad and it was a hot spot for poaching. In the Scientific Services there were 63% vacant posts, 21 filled posts and 37 vacant unfunded posts.
▪ In the Free State’s Permit Office, there were three filled posts and no vacant posts. In Enforcement there were 7% vacancies, 13 filled posts and one vacant funded post. In the Scientific Services there were 55% vacancies, eight filled posts and ten vacant unfunded posts.
▪ In the Northern Cape’s Permit Office there were 57% vacancies, six filled posts, one vacant funded post and seven vacant unfunded posts. In Enforcement there were 66% vacancies, three filled posts and six vacant unfunded posts. In Scientific Services there were 80% vacancies, five filled posts, 20 vacant unfunded posts and one vacant funded post.
▪ In the Western Cape Permit Office there were six filled posts. In Enforcement there were 11% vacancies, 24 filled posts and three vacant unfunded posts. In Scientific Services, there were seven filled posts.

He briefly looked at the financial resources of the provinces. He noted the figures would need to be verified.

The main challenges reported by the provinces were a lack of transport, costs related to the attendance of hunts / translocation – limited kilometres to be travelled and limited number of officials that could attend hunts / translocations.

Mr Mketeni looked at the stockpile management noting inspections were conducted by the Directorate: Biodiversity Enforcement and Compliance, a secure database was developed by DEA Information Technology (IT). Training was to be provided and data to be transferred from existing sources, specific officials in provincial conservation authorities to be trained were identified. The “centralisation” of government owned stocks would be continued and privately owned stocks were to be captured on the national database by provincial authorities (requested by private sector). This was an issue that needed to be looked into.

In terms of conservation management interventions, the first Draft Biodiversity Management Plan for white rhinoceros was to be completed by 31 January 2013 and the black rhino Biodiversity Management Plan was to be signed by Minister and published in the Government Gazette for implementation (currently submitted to Minister for signature).

In conclusion, the Rhino Issue Management (RIM) had had engagement with stakeholders which resulted in recommendations on safety and security of rhino, conservation of rhino and commercial issues.

Discussion
In reply to the Chairperson asking if the tasks and matters that arose out of the workshop were recorded somewhere, it was noted the report was in the pack of documents handed out to Members.

Mr G Morgan (DA) appreciated that some matters from the closed briefing were now reported on but also saw that some matters were not. How far was the Department in setting up a centralised permitting system. He heard some IT challenges were involved and wanted comment on these challenges. He asked about the lack of cooperation with the provinces, when the system was expected to come online and if there were any further regulatory or legislative tasks which needed to be performed before it came online. He was concerned that no action was taken against officials for awarding permits for pseudo-hunts in the case of Chumlong Lemtongthai (a Thai national). In this particular court case, he wanted the opinion of the Department for the basis for withdrawing the charges given that such cases sent signals to those involved in illegal hunting and trade. He deeply concerned about the high level of poaching especially the figures for November which was the biggest poaching month for 2012. He questioned the reasons for this spike. He also raised the point of the large number of Czech and Polish pseudo-hunters in SA recruited by the Vietnamese and asked what steps had been taken with these governments over these pseudo-hunts.

The Chairperson welcomed the arrival of Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa.

Mr Mketeni responded to the recent case and the involvement of officials and noted the Department was engaging the Hawks and the NPA. Lemtongthai was not an ordinary poacher but the kingpin which used the Department’s permitting system to get pseudo-hunters into the country. He would follow up on the officials involved (who became state witnesses) and once that information was received, it could be made known to the Committee. He said the Department was reluctant to ask questions while the case was ongoing.

Ms Thea Caroll, DEA Director: Regulations, said poaching by the Czechs and Poles was reducting and the Department had made contact with the EU and enforcement agencies in both the countries and some had declined some permits. There was a slight increase in applications received from Russia and the UK but the Department would monitor this in terms of the norms and standards.

Mr Mketeni said it was difficult to say what caused the spike in poaching in November 2012 but the Department would look into it to monitor the trend.

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, DEA Director General, said DEA had long been attempting to and talking about setting up a centralised permitting system, but was let down by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and donor funding had lapsed so they would need funding from the fiscus. After the talks of an integrated permitting system with the Minister, a call for proposals and a public tender had gone out. The challenges experienced in Limpopo were that they had their own permitting system which, in the view of national, did not meet the requirements so they would need to migrate to a national system. The Minister would put this matter to the MECs.

The Chairperson remarked that the law would need to be amended to give effect to that.

Ms Ngcaba said there was agreement. There would be a nationally captured database but provinces would retain the power so there was no need to amend the law.

The Chairperson said the problem was that the actions would be adjusted to what arose out of the court case and the criminals would be cleverer.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) questioned the plans of the Department in terms of security. She asked about the number of South Africans involved together with foreign nationals under the section on arrests.

Ms Ngcaba highlighted the discussion through MINMEC on what must be done to deal with challenges and outlined the steps to be taken and the action plan. The approach of the Department was to first get the basics right - monitoring and the provision of training, especially in provinces.

Minister Molewa added that this part of the work arose out of the amendments to the regulations such as what rangers were expected to do on hunting trips. There was a shortage of budget at provincial levels which was also lacking at a national level. On a broader level, the DG would analyse the budgets of provinces in order to approach Treasury as a collective as well as to look at which issues of biodiversity could raise their own funds.

Mr Mketeni explained the urge to control the scourge of rhino even outside the borders of SA.

Mr S Huang (ANC) questioned the increased poaching at SANParks despite the increase in budgets. He wanted an explanation for this. He questioned the increase in illegal rhino killings despite the Department controlling permits. It was an unacceptable proportion. He wanted to know about the Department officials involved in the illegal poaching. He questioned the number of poaching incidents compared to the number of arrests made.

Ms Ngcaba said the Department had an integrated approach to deal with poaching with international agreements and safety and security forces. it was a multi-pronged strategy. There were South Africans nationals involved and the Department was looking at a centralised permitting system to improve on the verification of permits and the applicants.

Dr David Mabunda, SANParks CEO, noted the number of arrests had increased but poaching had not decreased. It was complicated and difficult to fight the scourge given the long border shared with other countries. One of the challenges was the gangs of poachers living in Mozambiquan villages with up to 100% unemployment, along the Limpopo border. SA could not go into Mozambique and do anything about this. He explained the situation was very complex but they were relying on the buffer zone agreement. He emphasised the need for early warning technology.

Minister Molewa pointed out the difference between legal/illegal hunting and poaching. There were levels of operation and the kingpins needed to be caught. She emphasised the complexity of the situation saying that if there was crack-down on a Kruger National Park, then other areas turned into hotspots. This was organised crime that needed to be fought on all levels. She highlighted the Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with other countries who had rhino markets. A study or analysis of the market was needed. She mentioned a multi-faceted approach was used, for example, the Department was in discussions with Science and Technology and law enforcement agencies. There should be well-trained DEA officials at ports of entry into SA to detect rhino horn. The statistics could have been worse were it not for the interventions of the Department. She was also thankful of the SA society as government could not fight this battle by themselves.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) felt the Department should work on the unfilled vacancies. The foreign nationals involved where parts of syndicates.

Mr Morgan wanted an update on the sending of officials to Hong Kong to get DNA evidence from the shipment that was intercepted by Hong Kong customs last year. Had this happened and why were there delays? He asked if the Department was ready to sign the agreement with Vietnam. He questioned the information given by provinces. He asked about the level of commitment of SAPS and specialist police to the Kruger National Park. He referred to the video of a pseudo-hunt and asked if the Minister and DG had watched the video, and suggested they did so and he wanted their response to this.

Ms Ngcaba said there was not always full cooperation with law enforcement but said this had changed. She noted the challenges and limitations of a specialised task force and lack of budget and financial resources which hampered this commitment. SAPS and SANParks did not receive funds from the budget adjustment from Treasury but the Department did. The Department was looking at how to assist SAPS with finances and the need to invest in a long-term solution. DEA needed to monitor CITES compliance but needed a credible database to monitor trading gaps.

Mr Mketeni said a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) had been signed between the Department of Justice and Hong Kong and it had finally received a letter from justice in Hong Kong to collect it. The process would be started and the team had been signed off. He noted the issue of SAPS commitment.

Mr Mabunda said it was confirmed that SAPS would only reduce the 20 officials to 12 of the special task force and another ten would be added to the investigating unit by the end of November.

Ms Ngcaba said she had not seen the video clip but she understood that it confirmed the challenges that were in the system. There was a strategy to tighten permits and profiling through a standardised system. More time was needed for officials to adhere to the basics. She highlighted the need to strengthen provincial capacity for successful prosecution.

Minister Molewa said she was deeply angered by the contents of the video and work would be done around the co-accused. Justice and law enforcement needed to cooperate with DEA. Treasury had agreed to the budget which would be very helpful. She explained an MOU was supposed to be signed with Vietnam last month but her counterpart did not turn up. She was going to China on Saturday and thought she would be able to pass by Vietnam but it was not going to be possible. The MOU would be signed here. The content of the MOUs were for strengthening enforcement, technology capacity, strengthening the laws and regulations in both countries, information sharing and awareness campaigns. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) had also agreed to visit Vietnam to fight the scourge.

The Chairperson said Mr Mketeni was to send him a report on the first case. Turning to plea bargaining, he said problems began when it was linked to state witnesses. He had a problem with how the plea-bargaining tool was being used, especially when it was not used on the top guys. The case of Glenn Agliotti was a prime example of this. These people needed to be cleaned out of the system. He found it difficult to assess this progress report but saw many good things and huge improvements in certain areas. The problem was that the report narrowly concentrated on the DEA. He suggested they consult key role players in the structures linking DEA to the JCPS cluster, before giving a briefing. He felt they did not present the bigger picture.

Minister Molewa said there was a standing invitation to all the clusters and Cabinet committees but DEA needed to make that move.

The Chairperson said this was important and would inform the cluster when looking at the budget. The challenge of the report on the provinces was that an accurate picture was not captured. National Department needed to sit down with each province to get a full breakdown of budgets and problems. This would aid the Department and the Committee in requesting funds from Treasury and ensure everyone was on the same page. The national database was needed to track poaching, stockpiles and information on rhino. He said legal regulations were working as seen in the down-side trends.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
CITES
Appendix One outlined species threatened with extinction, which were or may be affected by trade. International (commercial) trade in wild-taken specimens was generally prohibited and non-detriment finding was required.

CITES Appendix Two outlined species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but for which trade must be controlled to avoid their becoming so. International trade is permitted but regulated and a non-detriment finding was required.
Mr Mketeni said Black rhino were covered in Appendix One (COP9 approved hunting quota of five adult males). White rhino were covered in Appendix Two. South Africa and Swaziland’s populations of white rhino were for the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations and hunting trophies. All other specimens should be deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix One and the trade in them should be regulated accordingly (no commercial trade).

History of rhino proposals to CITES
At COP 8 (1992) there was a proposal for down-listing to Appendix Two. Zimbabwe submitted proposals for both white and black rhino. The South Africa population size, at that time, was approximately 5 500 with 800 on private land in South Africa. Poaching was effectively controlled in SA through appropriate anti-poaching and other security programmes. The proposal indicated “the strategy of banning all international trade in rhino products had failed to provide any significant protection to rhino populations in the wild and should be discarded as a viable conservation measure”. He said this view still existed globally.

At COP 8 (1992), the down-listing to Appendix Two proposed controlled utilisation which included: ranching for horn (periodic capture and removal of excess horn growth), products from natural mortalities and slaughter for products (of seriously injured, sick or post-reproductive animals). An annual quota of 500 kg of horn was proposed and a marketing system of products processed in South Africa.

The COP 8 proposal was rejected. The CITES committee expressed concern about the status of the world’s rhino populations: “illegal trade in rhinoceros horn had been a major cause of this alarming situation and that, despite the listing of the species in Appendix One, the CITES machinery had been largely ineffective. This, in fact, was largely a consequence of the high market demand in certain countries”. Various interventions were proposed, including a comprehensive study of the illegal trade in rhinoceros horn, especially in order to identify points at which that market may be most vulnerable to influence.

At COP 9 (1994) the down-listing to Appendix Two proposal was amended to for sale of live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations and hunting trophies only”. The amended proposal was adopted.

At COP 10 (1997), there was a proposal to amend the annotation to allow the legal trade in rhino horn and other products. The population size in SA was approximately 7 000 while the private ownership was 1 200. The proposal was rejected. The EU and the USA did not support the proposal. The EU indicated that adequate control mechanisms for trade were not in place and therefore the proposal was premature. The USA indicated that the amendment will undermine progress made by many parties to reduce demand for rhino horn. They offered support for dialogue on non-commercial disposal of rhino horn stocks.

At COP 11 (2000), South Africa submitted a proposal to down-list its population of African elephant and the proposal was adopted. KZN did request that a rhino proposal be submitted which was similar to the proposal in 1997. A SADC CITES COP preparatory meeting recommended that a trade system for rhino horn be developed before a proposal was submitted to the COP.

Current CITES discussions relating to rhino
The
CITES Standing Committee Working Group (WG) on Rhinoceros report was submitted for consideration at CITES COP 16. The WG report said focus on a demand reduction strategy should be developed.



The TRAFFIC
Assessment of rhino horn as a traditional medicine was submitted to the Standing Committee. It staed: “Rhino horn’s long history of use in traditional medicine suggests that it has proved efficacious in the experience of many people, and some scientific research supports this, although negative results have also been reported.  However, its medicinal use has been prohibited in the 5 countries/territories studied.” Those studied were: China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Republic of Korea.



The TRAFFIC report on the South Africa-Vietnam Rhino Horn Trade Nexus spoke of a deadly combination of institutional lapses, corrupt wildlife industry professionals and Asian crime syndicates. Its key recommendations were:
▪ sustain a strong, high-level political will (Operation Rhino and PC process);
▪ address capacity and resource constraints (conservation authorities);
▪ design and implement a secure, national electronic permit system (e
xpression of interest received and tender process to follow);

 
▪ continue the implementation of mandatory registration, marking and DNA sampling (implemented);
▪ develop and enact bilateral treaties (MOU with Vietnam finalised/to be signed; plus China & Kenya);
▪ appropriate penalties to be given, including asset forfeiture;
▪ denying permits to those charged with rhino crimes (amendment included in National Environmental Management Laws First Amendment Bill)
▪ improve the capacity for investigations, intelligence gathering and analyses, as well as communication and collaboration between law enforcers (Wildlife Information Management Unit to be finalised)
▪ tighten law enforcement at ports of entry and exit (agreement reached on transfer of
three inspectors from Gauteng to DEA)
▪ ensure effective monitoring and regulation of sport hunting (monitoring of sport hunting on-going despite capacity constraints);
▪ develop better regulation of professionals within the wildlife industry (national registration for professional hunters and outfitters in NEMLA);
▪ designate rhino crime cases to specific prosecutors (ongoing);
▪ take an objective and strategic approach to assessing long term outcomes of any future interventions in relation to global rhino conservation objectives and trade (Rhino Issues Manager process to inform position relating to trade. Conservation interventions aimed at addressing long-term conservation and can be extended to the region).

TRAFFIC Trade Nexus Report stated: the growing body of evidence clearly indicates that Vietnam is the world’s leading destination and consumer of rhino horn”.

In summary, the k
ey recommendations are:
Demonstrate strong political will
Review & strengthen legislation and penalties
Address infractions regarding legally-imported rhino horn trophies
Curtail internet advertising
Address the issue of “fake” rhino horn in the market-place
Develop and implement bilateral treaties
Develop a strict regulatory mechanism
Employ effective enforcement strategies


Commit adequate financial & human resources
Support on-going research
Promote demand reduction activities
Undertake clinical trials and peer review research on the medicinal properties of rhino horn – promote alternative substances

Ms Caroll gave a briefing on African elephant ivory trade and the
key aspects to consider based on the African elephant experience. This was that only registered government-owned stocks originating in the country was approved for sale (excluding seized ivory and ivory of unknown origin). Trading partners that had been verified by the Secretariat, in consultation with the Standing Committee, to have sufficient national legislation and domestic trade controls to ensure that the imported ivory will not be re-exported and will be managed in accordance with all requirements of domestic manufacturing and trade. The Secretariat had verified the prospective importing countries and the registered government-owned stocks. Mechanisms for sale / trade (ivory – once off sales: auctions). The proceeds of the trade were used exclusively for elephant conservation and community conservation and development programmes within or adjacent to the elephant range. Decisions were to be taken with due consideration of the African Elephant Action Plan (developed and adopted by all African elephant range states).

Ms Caroll spoke about the
Panel of Experts report and the

systems in place when the elephant proposal was submitted. Important aspects to consider were lobby actions – combined efforts by all proponent countries (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia) with support from SADC, this was preceded by successful once-off sales by other countries. The African Elephant Action Plan was developed and adopted at COP 15.

Key issues to be considered in the preparation for CITES COP16 3-15 March 2013 in Bangkok were the proposals to amend the appendices as well as the working documents for implementation of the Convention. Cabinet approval to be obtained prior to the COP (mandate). Preparatory sessions were to be held with SADC member states. Ms Caroll then looked at the CITES working documents and the proposals submitted for different species.

Discussion
The Chairperson noted nothing was said on the rhino.

Minister Molewa said there was not a formal presentation on this yet. She explained a Rhino Issue Manager (RIM) had been operating diligently since the beginning of the year. The RIM had come up with proposals regarding rhino horn trade which still needed some thought and tightening up in time for CITES in March 2013. She noted the concerns about the internal moratorium on rhino horn trading but there were various arguments that needed to be considered. The Department may not meet the deadline of CITES but they would do work in the inter-session. This was the situation in a nutshell.

Mr Morgan was very happy about the RIM and understood the challenges in finding middle ground but government was the executive authority and so must act. He could not understand why an application was not put in given that trade would not happen immediately and that time could be used to get the necessary systems in place. An application would allow for discussion and make interested people alert. He thought perhaps the application was not put in due to the backlash DEA would get for the CITES proposal and sensitivities of their conveying this view. The DEA had missed the boat and there was no way to get in an application now and it would have to wait until 2016. He was baffled by this and thought an application could be put in even without concluding discussions with stakeholders. The DEA would still have the opportunity to hold back. He wanted the DEA’s comments on this.

The Chairperson asked why there was no message from the Department on missing the deadline. He felt he now had to back down from his message on the matter. He explained SA would now be politically vulnerable until 2016 by not showing their intent. He hoped this thing did not backfire. The Department had given too much weight to a few opposing groups with a pure view of life. Policy was not made on the basis of the extreme. The problem was going to deepen and he was very worried about the approach. There were strong people in support and consensus across the party-political divide on trading mechanisms as was used in the case of elephants.

Minister Molewa explained that the EU needed to be lobbied for funds and submitting an application meant DEA would need to be ready for discussion on the matter at the next COP. They would most probably go that route but the DEA needed to be well armed and well prepared especially on stockpiles.

The Chairperson said from the side of the Committee, policy decisions needed to be made sooner rather than later. The Department should not antagonise people on their side and should instead take them along. On stockpiles, DEA needed to move quicker. He felt uncomfortable that DEA was not sure about these privately owned stockpiles. He wanted DEA to have a plan when going to CITES to begin the lobbying.

Ms Ngcaba highlighted the challenge significantly hampering action on stockpiles. The legislative amendments being considered by Parliament were not yet in place in order for the Minister to call for amnesty for people to declare privately owned stockpiles. She mentioned the work done by DEA officials with SADC in Botswana. The Department needed to be well prepared in time for CITES.

The Chairperson said the Committee was on the same track. He felt DEA public relations needed to be done better when involving people who were in support.

The meeting was adjourned.

Share this page: