CITES COP17 Conference in South Africa: Colloquium on preparations, with Minister in attendance

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

13 September 2016
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to host a colloquium on the “Successes, Challenges and Pitfalls of Anti-Rhino Poaching Strategies” – the first of quarterly colloquiums to be held on key environmental matters. The purpose of the meeting was to hear various opinions and input on matters relating to rhino poaching as well as to hear the readiness of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to host the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) from 24 September to 5 October in Johannesburg. The Chairperson of the Committee highlighted that the colloquium was also an opportunity for national dialogue and debate between Parliament, government and civil society. It also formed part of the vision to create an accessible, activist and relevant Parliament that had its finger on the pulse in terms of key topical issues. The colloquium would also assist in facilitating engagement and participation for a true people’s Parliament and contribute to the ongoing international discourse on environmental matters in SA.

The Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs appreciated the hosting of the colloquium which she thought would assist in deepening engagement and also for greater understanding of some critical matters ahead of CITES COP17. She briefly spoke to the Committee of Inquiry looking at the local trade of rhino horn and its report which was recently tabled before Cabinet before highlighting the dedicated national crime prevention and integrated approach to fighting the scourge of rhino poaching.

The Department of Environmental Affairs outlined the state of readiness of SA to host CITES COP17 in terms of logistics. A Local Organising Committee was appointed in 2015 which was responsible for logistical and security preparations and was a point of coordination on all logistical and security preparations.  There were a number of departments and entities represented on the Local Organising Committee. Looking at content matters with the state of readiness, an Inter-Departmental Substance Committee was appointed to develop SA’s national position paper (six meetings were held). Two stakeholder engagements took place and stakeholders were invited to submit comments for consideration in the development of the position paper.  Two Southern African Development Community (SADC) meetings took place to develop a common SADC position for CITES CoP17 on key issues for the sub-region. An Africa preparatory meeting took place from 8 – 12 August 2016 in Ethiopia and consensus was reached on some matters of importance to the region.

SANParks briefed lawmakers on the managmemt and conservation of rhino populations in the face of on-going poaching on state-owned lands. Growth in poaching was seen in three provinces, namely, KZN, Limpopo and the Free State in that order. Looking at the figures, there was a 44% increase in poaching in KZN. An increase level of effort needed to be placed on all provinces and the three above in particular. It was also important to note that as the poaching criminals were constrained in SA, they moved to other SADC range states like Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana – these indications were already there. One of the primary challenges was the messaging and language. From current messages, people heard an advertising campaign for poaching when the message should be that rhinos were well managed. Much of this will need targeted messaging for specific stakeholders using means way more diverse than just the formal media. It was illustrated that compulsory and biological management interventions was holding the fort for rhinos inside parks but the parks needed to be cleaned from the outside. For this, there needed to be disruption of crime and the creation of alternative economic opportunities for people. Addressing the drivers of poaching on a local scale was all about fixing social injustices because the saving of rhinos depended on the saving of people.

Turning to compulsory interventions to protect the rhino asset, within Kruger and provincial reserves, there were various approaches which could assist. These approaches were specifically zonal and in some, technology was used. In other approaches, the focus was on partners and human intelligence. Technology helped to do things better but it carried different risks and benefits. Anti-poaching initiatives were best summarised by comparison between the first six months of 2015 with the first six months of 2016. Although poacher activities increased, the number of people arrested as well as firearms seized also increased. Most importantly, the number of rhino poached decreased by 18% as of end August 2016. Actual poaching rates decreased by 23% which was the fraction of rhino poached. This was an encouraging trend because it demonstrated that from 2014 to 2015, the increase in the number of rhino killed each year was stopped. Trends so far this year indicated a decrease in the number of rhinos killed per year by the end of 2016. Unfortunately, successes in Kruger may divert activities somewhere else – in KZN, the number of carcasses increased as did the number of firearms seized and arrests made. Most worrying was the fraction of the population poached increased dramatically in the KZN province. This was despite the reduction in poacher activities.
 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks by Chairperson

The Chairperson began proceedings by noting that the purpose of the colloquium was to hear various opinions by the invited panellists on the matter of rhino poaching. He welcomed the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, the MEC for Environmental Affairs in the Northern Cape, Members of the Committee, Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and all their officials. In attendance were media, interested organisations, invited panellists and stakeholders in the conservation sector. The colloquium would be the first in a series of seminars the Committee would host every parliamentary quarter – the intention was to create a national platform for debate and dialogue between government, Parliament and civil society around key issues facing SA society in the environmental sector. This was part of the vision of seeing Parliament become a true people’s Parliament – a Parliament that was activist in character and orientation, facilitated engagement and participation in key topical questions of the day, a Parliament that was accessible, a Parliament that was relevant and made contributions to the ongoing intellectual discourse around environmental issues in SA.  The Committee would do its best to articulate these ideals. 

SA held the world’s most successful conservation record for rhinos. In 2011, SA alone conserved 83% of Africa’s rhino population and 73% of all wild rhinos worldwide. As one of the most biologically diverse nations, SA had a long history of promoting biodiversity conservation through the sustainable use of natural resources. However, the country’s excellent conservation record, particularly of the rhino species, was under serious threat. Some people arguing that the growing market for illicit rhino horn in the past years was largely attributed to the economic boom in East and South East Asia where the horn was apparently used for medicinal purposes. Statistics from 2007 to date seemed to support this hypothesis. In 2007, SA lost 13 rhinos to poaching – by 2009, the number had reached 124 and in 2010 it rocketed to 335 and the numbers continued to rise in the subsequent years. Poaching statistics rose sharply to 1 004 killed rhinos in 2013 despite the clampdown on this wildlife crime by the authorities. Poaching trends and the level of sophistication in the killing of rhino, backed by enormous resources, was very alarming in 2014 where 1 215 rhinos were killed. In 2015 however, SA experienced a slight decrease of rhinos killed relative to the year before and was the first time SA recorded a decrease in poaching since 2007. Poaching levels, however, seemed to be on a downward trajectory if the statistics to date were anything to go by. 

The Chairperson stated that poaching was one of the worst environmental crimes. Various security measures were introduced by relevant authorities to curb rhino poaching however it would seem that the biggest stumbling block to all kinds of poaching strategies was the immense and ever increasing rate by which the animals were poached which made counter-insurgence measures difficult to establish. Perhaps as lawmakers, legislation should be considered to make it mandatory for the courts to impose minimum sentences, for example, at least 15 years for those found guilty of this heinous crime and to serve as a deterrent for would-be poachers. The crime should be treated as a high priority one and the courts should join the nation in condemning this crime by imposing stiff sentences.

It was within this context that the Committee decided to convene the colloquium to highlight the matter of rhino poaching as one of the many items to be discussed at the 17th meeting of the Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that SA will be hosting from 24 September to 5 October in Johannesburg. Part of the colloquium was also to assess the state of readiness to host this auspicious global occasion. Under the theme “challenges, successes and pitfalls in existing rhino anti-poaching strategies”, a panel of experts would assist in interrogating the issues in rhino conservation in the face of ongoing killing of this species throughout the length and breadth of SA. The interactive nature of the colloquium would facilitate Members and invited guests to robustly engage with presentations. Expectations were that discussions and subsequent resolutions emanating from the gathering, would bolster anti rhino poaching strategies in order for the strategies to result in material decreases in rhino mortality on the ground.

The colloquium would be conducted according to the prepared programme for the day.   

Address by the Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs

Minister Molewa, after also welcoming all present, thanked the Committee for the invitation to engage on this very important discussion. The vision of the Committee to get everyone together to engage before CITES was very much appreciated because it would help in deepening engagement and to ensure that everyone was together before the global interaction. This would also allow for greater understanding of some matters. The Department noted that the increase in rhino poaching actually started around 2008 – incidentally the same year in which a moratorium was placed on the local sale/trade of rhino horn (CITES only prohibited international trade). This point was made in light of legal processes faced with a number of rhino farmers not happy with the moratorium.

In terms of the Committee of Inquiry, it was established to engage all South Africans in order to receive inputs on what could be done over and above measures already currently in place n fighting rhino poaching. It was also important to find out if there could be a possibility of trading in rhino horn including those in the stockpiles. Scientific information and knowledge was needed in this regard on what such trade would entail, dos and don’ts, what the market would consistent of, behaviour, communities issues etc. The report of the Committee of Inquiry had since been tabled in Cabinet and it was quite evident that SA needed to do even before there could be a process to approach CITES to ask for allowing SA to trade in rhino horn. SA had the highest number of rhinos (over 20 000) in the world followed by Namibia (just under 3 000). 

The Minister highlighted the dedicated national crime prevention strategy against rhino poaching to be formulated and implemented in SA to also yield successes - communities were an integral component in this regard. Further work needed to be done on further understanding the global market for rhino horn. SA planned to inform the world of its initiatives developed to fight the scourge of rhino poaching. Currently, efforts were contained in the Integrated Strategy Management Approach as adopted by Cabinet in terms of the bio-management of natural resource.

Department of Environmental Affairs: CITES COP17 State of Readiness, Issues and Expectations

Ms Thea Carol, Chief Director: Special Projects CITES COP17, began by noting the purpose of the briefing was to share information with the Committee relating to South Africa’s readiness to host the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) to CITES, outline proposals submitted by SA for consideration by the COP, proposals submitted by other CITES parties, side events to be hosted by the SA government and key working documents. In terms of background, SA ratified CITES in 1975 and was one of the 183 current signatories to CITES. SA was the host country for the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES and the meeting was scheduled to take place from 24 September 2016 to 5 October 2016 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. CITES aimed to ensure that international trade in CITES listed species was sustainable and not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. CITES member countries and observers meet approximately every three years to review the implementation of the Convention. At such meetings, member countries also considered and adopted amendments to the lists of species in Appendices I and II. 120 working documents, including 62 proposals will be discussed at CITES COP17. CITES listed species were categorised in three Appendices (Appendix I, II and III) according to the extent to which they were threatened:

  • Appendix I: species threatened with extinction and trade in specimens of these species was permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II: species not necessarily threatened with extinction but in which trade must be regulated in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with the survival

Ms Carol then outlined the state of readiness of SA to host CITES COP17 in terms of logistics. A Local Organising Committee was appointed in 2015 which was responsible for logistical and security preparations and was a point of coordination on all logistical and security preparations.  There were a number of departments and entities represented on the Local Organising Committee. The City of Johannesburg also appointed a Professional Conference Organiser, Keliana Management, to:

  • Ensure adequate staffing and catering provided.
  • Ensure that all delegates and staff were vetted by the State Security Agency (SSA).
  • Deliver a Green CoP.
  • Develop and introduce an application (app) as a document management system to reduce the number of papers printed: this was a first for CITES.
  • Provide delegate give-aways.
  • Coordinate tours, opening ceremony, host country reception and closing ceremony.
  • Ensure delivery of all audio visual requirements were in place e.g. voting system, translation, microphones, webcasting etc.

Turning to readiness in terms of communication, exhibition and legacy, the Committee heard that there would be a flauna consortium, a logo was developed for the COP including animation of the logo, radio deployment, social media awareness through a website (http://www.citescop17jhb.co.za/) , Facebook and Twitter, branding of the CO, a CITES COP17 Exhibition and sustainability projects and a legacy programme.

Looking at content matters with the state of readiness, an Inter-Departmental Substance Committee was appointed to develop SA’s national position paper (six meetings were held). Two stakeholder engagements took place and stakeholders were invited to submit comments for consideration in the development of the position paper.  Two Southern African Development Community (SADC) meetings took place to develop a common SADC position for CITES CoP17 on key issues for the sub-region. An Africa preparatory meeting took place from 8 – 12 August 2016 in Ethiopia and consensus was reached on some matters of importance to the region.

Ms Carol then discussed proposals submitted to amend the Appendices which stood as follows:

  • Mammals – 15
  • Birds – 4
  • Reptiles – 15 (28 species)
  • Amphibians – 5 (6 species)
  • Fish – 6
  • Invertebrates – 2
  • Flora – 13 (29 species

Key proposals, as proposed by SA, included:

-transferring the Cape Mountain Zebra from Appendix I to II

-including Wild Ginger in Appendix II

-transferring Pangolin from Appendix II to I

Ms Carol then took the Committee through other proposals i.e., those made by other countries:

  • African Lion
    • Transferring all African populations of Panthera Leo from Appendix II to I
    • decline at a global scale but not for all the range states
    • A decline of more than 60% between 1993 and 2014 had apparently been observed in a sample lion population outside of Botswana, Namibia, SA, Zimbabwe and India.
    •  In Botswana, Namibia, SA and Zimbabwe, lion population had increased by 12% during the past 21 years
    • In SA, there were about 3 155 wild lions of which 67% were well protected within national parks where lion populations were both stable and at their ecological carrying capacity
  • Southern White Rhino
    • To alter the existing annotation on Appendix II listing of Swaziland’s White Rhino adopted at the 13th COP in 2004 so as to permit a limited and regulated trade in white rhino which had been collected in the past from natural deaths or recovered from poached Swazi rhino as well as horn to be harvested in a non-lethal way from a limited number of white rhino in the future in Swaziland
    • To sell existing stocks o some 330kg to a small number of licensed retailers in the Far East and also to sell harvested horn at the rate of 20kg per annum to these retailers
    • The proceeds from the sale of stocks will raise approximately $9.9 million at a wholesale price of $30 000 per kg. That amount will be placed in an endowment fund to yield approximately $600 000 per annum.
  • African Elephant:
    • Proposal 14: delete the annotation to the listing of the Namibian African Elephant population in Appendix II by deleting any reference to Namibia in that annotation (Proponent: Namibia)
    • Proposal 15: amend the present Appendix II listing of the population of Zimbabwe of Loxodonta Africana by removing the annotation in order to achieve an unqualified Appendix II listing (Proponent: Zimbabwe and Namibia)
    • Proposal 16: include all populations of Loxodonta Africana (African Elephant) in Appendix I through the transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I of the populations of Botswana, Namibia, SA and Zimbabwe (Proponents: Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, the Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Uganda)
  • Peregrine Falcon:
    • Transfer Falco Peregrinus from Appendix I to II
  • African Grey Parrot:
    • Transfer Psittacus Erithacus from Appendix II to I
  • Proposal 42: Silky Shark
    • Include Carcharhinus Falciformis in Appendix II
  • Proposal 43: Thresher Sharks
    • Include genus Alopias in Appendix II
  • Proposal 44: Devil Rays
    • Include genus Mobula in Appendix II
  • Rosewood:
    • Proposal 54: include 13 timber species of the genus Dalbergia (native to Mexico and Central America) to Appendix II
    • Proposal 55: include the genus Dalbergia in CITES Appendix II with the exception to species included in Appendix I (proponents: Argentina, Guatemala and Kenya)

Ms Carol then moved on to look at side events to the COP17 of CITES:

  • The role of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in prosecuting illegal wildlife trade (Focus area: Rhino)
  • The role of technology as an intervention to counter rhino poaching
  • The role of the Scientific Authority in science based decision making relating to legal international trade
  • Collaboration between wildlife sector and government to ensure sustainable utilisation of wildlife
  • Committee of Inquiry process
  • Biodiversity Lab, including Rhino Lab – Process and key outcomes
  • Environmental Management Inspectorate – showcasing successes and collaboration with other government departments
  • Cooperation between SA and Mozambique and the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding
  • Youth Conservation Programme
  • Launch of the Rhino Conservation range States Action Plan
  • Cycad Conservation Actions – Cycad management strategy
  • People and Parks programme – Communities living adjacent to Protected Areas: Challenges and opportunities
  • GEF-UNEP Rhino programme – Progress and key deliverables reached

Key working documents for strategic matters included:

  • Sponsored delegates project
  • Committee reports
  • Regional representatives
  • Establishment of Rural Communities Committee
  • Cooperation with other organisations and multilateral environmental agreements
  • Capacity building
  • CITES and Livelihoods
  • Demand reduction
  • Empowering the next generation

Key working documents for interpretation and implementation of general compliance and enforcement included:

  • National laws for implementation of the Convention
  • CITES National Ivory Action Plans
  • Enforcement matters
  • Illegal international trade in wildlife
  • Identification of elephant and mammoth ivory
  • Hunting trophies
  • International trade in live Appendix II animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations
  • Stocks and stockpile management

Key working documents for species specific matters included:

  • Ebonies and rosewoods
  • Elephants
    • Closure of domestic ivory markets
    • Ivory stockpiles – guidelines for management and destruction?
    • Trade in live elephants
    • Report on MIKE and ETIS
  • International trade in Encephalartos spp
  • Pangolins
  • Conservation of and trade in East African sandalwood
  • Harvesting of and trade in African cherry
  • Rhinoceros
    • Document that included information on all inter-sessional work done based on decisions taken at CoP16
    • A draft decision that included the implementation of actions developed by the CITES Rhinoceros Enforcement Task Force and range states were directed to continuously review poaching and trafficking trends to ensure measures implemented remained effective and adapt responses to address newly identified trends
  • Implementation of CITES strategic vision: 63% of CITES Appendix I listed species classified in a threatened category and 44% of these were experiencing population declines
  • Decision making mechanism for a process of trade in ivory

Management and Conservation of Rhino Populations in the face of on-going poaching on state-owned lands

Dr Sam Ferreira, SANParks Large Mammal Ecologist, began the presentation by outlining that he would focus on some initiatives noting that most lessons came from the Kruger National Park (KNP) and KZN. Looking at the numbers of rhinos, Dr Ferreira highlighted the numbers of black and white rhinos in the Kruger, Parks provinces, owned by individuals, with custodians, with the community and elsewhere in Africa as at the end of 2015 as per official numbers released by the African Rhino Specialist Group. The numbers showed that SA was home to 36% of around 5 250 black rhinos in the world and home to 88.2% of around 20 400 white rhinos in the world. The bulk of both species lived on state properties (28.8% of black rhino and 60.3% of white rhino). SANParks was responsible for more or less half of the rhino in SA – private individuals owned 9% of the black and 27.9% of the white rhino of the world. Communities only owned 0.5% of the world’s black rhino as custodians. Ownership and responsibility in SA reflected strong inequality originating from the past.

Looking at the number of rhinos poached, poaching numbers escalated from 208 onwards. National parks carried the brunt of the poaching and nearly all poaching activity took place in KNP. In light of this context, the recent biodiversity lab essentially boiled down to three things:

  • maximise short term growth
  • maximising long term persistence
  • maximise opportunities associated with sustainability

SA had many ways to achieve the above points – some places were small while others were large and they each brought different opportunities but generally the smaller the area the more intense the management but the less healthy the system. This also provided different opportunities for socio-economic development and sustainability but they carried different risks. The emphasis was on not putting all eggs in one basket.

Dr Ferreira outlined that private industry played an important role but it was a volatile role because the accountability was financial. This was in contrast to the accountability of SANParks and the provinces where their accountability was constitutional.

Turning to compulsory interventions to protect the rhino asset, within Kruger and provincial reserves, there were various approaches which could assist. These approaches were specifically zonal and in some, technology was used. In other approaches, the focus was on partners and human intelligence. Technology helped to do things better but it carried different risks and benefits. Anti-poaching initiatives were best summarised by comparison between the first six months of 2015 with the first six months of 2016. Although poacher activities increased, the number of people arrested as well as firearms seized also increased. Most importantly, the number of rhino poached decreased by 18% as of end August 2016. Actual poaching rates decreased by 23% which was the fraction of rhino poached. This was an encouraging trend because it demonstrated that from 2014 to 2015, the increase in the number of rhino killed each year was stopped. Trends so far this year indicated a decrease in the number of rhinos killed per year by the end of 2016. Unfortunately, successes in Kruger may divert activities somewhere else – in KZN, the number of carcasses increased as did the number of firearms seized and arrests made. Most worrying was the fraction of the population poached increased dramatically in the KZN province. This was despite the reduction in poacher activities.

Dr Ferreira then summarised law enforcement efforts and its effectiveness. The ranger effect was the difference made given the number of people attempting to poach rhino. In Kruger, poaching activities per day increased but the number of rhinos poacher per day stabilised. SANParks was concerned that poacher activities kept increasing despite increased law enforcement efforts and positive results in Kruger. In KZN, poaching activities decreased but the ranger effect still had way less rhinos killed per attempts of killing them. The emphasis was on bringing the poacher incursion activity down. In the case of KZN, the patterns in declining activity may be associated with social programmes like the rhino ambassadors. It may also be associated with proactive intelligence even so, SA had a history of continuing biological management. KZN had been the key partner of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the black rhino range expansion programme - KZN also continued to sell white rhinos through auctions on an annual basis.

In Kruger, complimentary activity to protecting rhinos was the management of rhinos themselves. Biological management was used since the 1960s when rhinos were first introduced to the Park. By 1990, rhinos were starting to be moved. The integrated approach continued with the poaching onslaught started and since 2008, around 900 rhinos were removed. The approach was to remove rhinos from places where they had a high risk of being poached. Rhinos were also moved when densities got high to allow for higher birth rates. The removed rhinos established populations elsewhere mostly in other reserves or on private property. Some of the sold rhinos to private property formed part of hunting packages – the African Rhino Specialist Group reported 64 white rhino and one black rhino hunt in 2015.

The biological management of white rhinos could be summarised as the biggest biologist effect. An example was Kruger – by moving white rhinos from Kruger to strongholds elsewhere, more live white rhinos were added than what would have been the case if they were left in Kruger. This was particularly evident since 2008 in offsetting the poaching increase in Kruger. In fact, the poaching offset for white rhinos was 25% of the annual poaching loss by the end of 2015. In 2015, 826 rhinos were lost most of which were white rhinso but 230 white rhino were also saved – effectively only 596 rhinos were then lost. Although Kruger was the best place for getting big populations that can buffer onslaughts like poaching, the biologist effect had helped a great deal to reduce the overall poaching impact. These efforts were however costly with most of the direct costs for operation, equipment and staff needed to take place in Kruger. The responsibility also included other parks. A key concern was the large fraction of total costs per annum were donor sourced and the financial sustainability of protecting and conserving rhino remained a key challenge. Costs were also not just financial – hidden costs spanned from consequences for people, through opportunities and the effects that messages, often through the media, portrayed.

Dr Ferreira then went on to outline that within the national parks, efforts were at best only maintaining populations across three sub-species living in national parks. South-western black rhinos were increasing – SANParks already reached the 2020 targets required as per the Biodiversity Management Plan. For southern white rhinos that mostly lived in Kruger, SANParks was holding the population stagnant but needed 3% per annum growth until 2020. The biggest challenge was with South-central black rhinos – the Kruger population most likely declined over a five year period. SANParks unrealistically needed 15% per annum growth to reach the targets for 2020 as per the Biodiversity Management Plan – this was not possible because the black rhino could not breed that fast. SANParks was implementing a targeted approach for black rhino in Kruger in response. Trends in population, counted each year at high costs, suggested variable successes in conserving rhino.

Dr Ferreira acknowledged that further efforts were needed in addition to what the rangers and biologists were doing. Reflecting on what the drivers of poaching were gave some guidelines. Long histories of culture and trade locally and abroad together inelastic demand in Asian countries suggested demand management interventions were required. High profit potential attracted organised crime – on a local scale, inadequate law enforcement provided opportunities for organised crime to exploit a commodity of high value. The remaining drivers, unclear property rights and human wildlife conflict disincentives, often resulted from historical and present social injustices. These social injustices provided a further milieu for organised crime to exploit particularly the exploitation of people. If people thought they had been done in and lived in a lawless environment, the table was set for organised crime to exploit people and goods.

Going back to the ranger effect and using the KNP as an example, it was clear the Park needed to be maintained from the inside in terms of anti-poaching and biological management. This helped in holding up the fort for now. But the insights of what caused people to poach highlighted what needed to be done to clean the Park from the outside and KZN may have some suggestions of the influences this could have. Getting fewer people who attempted to poach required creating regional safety and disrupting of crime. It also needed ways in which we can provide for the needs of people. People living in safe crime-free places with basic needs secure may have lower risks of being exploited by organised crime.

The Committee was informed of the integrated approach which consisted of compulsory interventions, interventions to increase rhino numbers, game-changing interventions and long-term sustainability interventions. Some of these interventions were already recognised when the Minister took the lead and Cabinet adopted the integrated approach. These new additional interventions (besides compulsory protection and biological management) could achieve broad-scale sustainability of rhino and people’s wellbeing. The long-term sustainability had been dominated by a dichotomous debate on international horn trade and it was often punted as the solution to poaching by pro-trader while demand reduction was often more aligned with demand elimination as the solution for anti-traders. A study used prices paid to poachers at different levels of the illegal supply chain and how it changed from year to year to develop an economic agent-based model – it tracked prices paid with around 80% precision. At the same time we had a rhino model that interacted with the economic model – the rhino model tracked rhino populations with around 80% precision. If this could well describe what happened since 2008 to 2015, it could surely be used to tell what may happen if a few policy scenarios were implemented. If things were left, rhinos have increasing extinction risks by 2036 to 2050. But no matter what was done, we do not get sustainable rhino we only get sustainability if we compliment any of those with disrupting crime and creating alternative choices for people. The Cabinet Decision recognised trade only as an opportunity once several other aspects were sorted out.

In terms of the game-changing interventions, these specifically targeted the supply chain of the present illegal goods trade. Compulsory and biological management interventions focused on the supply side while international demand reduction campaigns focused on the demand side. Both of these had large numbers of participants, but there were only a couple of ways of getting horn illegally from the suppliers to the users. Disrupting the crime networks was a key element and providing alternative economic choices was the second element. These directly addressed drivers of poaching that were in SA’s control. The Security Cluster developed an integrated wildlife trafficking strategy which was about to be implemented.

Looking at the needs of people and communities, predictions were that addressing these needs was a key element of fixing social wrongs that generated environments for crime to take place. Human needs depended first on basic needs such as food, water and housing with other needs cascading. If basic needs were not fulfilled, other needs may fall by the way side. Approximately 300 studies highlighted what needs a place like Kruger needed to provide. Risk analysis however showed that the needs people were most worried about focused on basic needs like security, employment and education. Several approaches could assist, for example, service for value approaches that targeted basic needs in a way that allowed for the development of economic cascades that provided for other needs as well – food for waste could generate at least four or five economic cascades funded by social investment money and could even address municipal challenges associated with waste management, for example. None of these social initiatives addressing the social injustices and resultant inequalities, however, can take place in a milieu of crime. Demilitirisation of the anti-poaching effort that antagonised people was not a matter of changing how protection was provided - rather it was about changing the operational area and objective. Expanding to be inclusive of people and providing for their safety and security was a key element. Rhino protection was then just part of a broader provision of safety and security for people. This aspect did receive some attention at the recent rhino biodiversity lab.

Dr Ferreira pointed out one of the primary challenges was the messaging and language. From current messages, people heard an advertising campaign for poaching when the message should be that rhinos were well managed. Much of this will need targeted messaging for specific stakeholders using means way more diverse than just the formal media. It was illustrated that compulsory and biological management interventions was holding the fort for rhinos inside parks but the parks needed to be cleaned from the outside. For this, there needed to be disruption of crime and the creation of alternative economic opportunities for people. Addressing the drivers of poaching on a local scale was all about fixing social injustices because the saving of rhinos depended on the saving of people.

Minister Molewa added that growth in poaching was seen in three provinces, namely, KZN, Limpopo and the Free State in that order. Looking at the figures, there was a 44% increase in poaching in KZN. An increase level of effort needed to be placed on all provinces and the three above in particular. It was also important to note that as the poaching criminals were constrained in SA, they moved to other SADC range states like Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana – these indications were already there. Around the messaging, she was often urged to regularly release stats on the rhino poached – the more these stats were released, the more people realised the rhino were being depleted quicker and that they better get in to grab while the rhino was still around. This was why she advocated for the use of stats as part of overall performance. Altering the message and how things were communicated also confused the poachers. 

The Chairperson noted an article in the Guardian where the UK wrote extensively about the proposal of Swaziland to CITES to open trade in its rhino horn and ivory. Swaziland said that those who were pro-banning trade did not understand the complexities of conserving species and the need to invest resources toward conservation.

Challenges in Managing Private Rhino Horn Reserves

Mr Angus Sholto-Douglas, Wildlife Ranching SA and Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA), first provided some background context by outlying numbers of private rhino ownership and poaching incidents. Factors influencing private ownership included financial implications, risk/poaching and law enforcement. Looking at financial implications influencing private ownership in more detail:

-R300 million loss of asset

-R1 150 000 annual security costs from 2009 to 2016

-R1 450 000 000 total loss and cost

-+200 000 ha rhino distribution loss

-70 reserves no longer have rhino due to the impact of poaching

The impact of poaching on private ownership included:

-1 200 of the 6 000 poached had been on private land.

-This equated to an asset loss of R300 million.

- A horn value of some R1billion.

-Exponential increase in security cost

This led to:

-Distress sale of remaining rhino on the property.

-Negative perception of rhino ownership, due to risk.

-70 less private properties had rhino in SA (was 400 now 330)

Mr Sholto-Douglas then turned to law enforcement and the impact on reserve management noting that:

•Substantive increase of budget > allocation to security

•Severe impact on reserve profitability/sustainability.

•Deployment of staff into security responsibilities

•Reserve upgrades or projects on hold

•Need to deploy armed APU teams

•Sophisticated security equipment

•Run informer network and gather intelligence

Core challenges included:

  1. How do we maintain private rhino ownership?
  2. From that base, how do we encourage rhino custodianship or ownership?
  3. How do we improve security on private reserves?
  4. How do we maintain and encourage private rhino ownership? 

In terms of how to maintain and encourage private rhino ownership, matters to consider included:

•Financial sustainability through a regulated horn trade mechanism.

•Supportive, enabling legislation and law enforcement policies.

•Increased levels of responsibility by Private Rhino Owners

•Greater levels of co-operation between state, provincial and private rhino custodians.

•A more cohesive rhino management community in a broader sense, recognising differences of approach that all have a role in reducing rhino deaths.

Discussion

The Chairperson noted that there was a growing lobby for the burning of stockpiles while a decision also needed to be presented by the CITES secretariat on the one-time sale of stockpile horn – he sought views on this matter. In terms of the rhino lab, he was of the view that the matter of rhino poaching should be elevated to a national crisis because that was precisely what it was which was even seen in the effects on private rhino owners and private conservationists. He however saw no strong proposals to elevate the matter to crisis level. He reiterated that there should be a move toward minimum sentences – the Criminal Procedure Act should possibly be looked at to accommodate such amendments.

Minister Molewa indicated that there was no movement since the decision was made hence SA, Namibia and Zimbabwe drafted their own proposal to CITES. She agreed there was a growing lobby to burn stockpiles – there was burning of stockpiles in different countries including on the African continent. She did not know if there were stats to prove that burning of stockpiles reduced poaching. There was a need for a complete overhaul and review of several matters relating to poaching such as law enforcement, corruption, good conservation management, and population management etc. i.e. a combination of a host of factors would produce results. It was also important to remember that the syndicates involved in poaching were those dealing in human trafficking, drugs and other global crimes which meant the challenge was not unique to SA but seen worldwide. These syndicates had nothing to lose and considered nothing. These syndicates needed to be fought with the greatest might including closing all legal loopholes. Those who burned stockpiles often did it as a symbolic gesture but the burning of stockpiles was not a panacea for poaching – stockpiles also implied safe storage of horn and ivory which required a lot of funds and resources. SA, Namibia and other African countries were successful in making a proposal to coordinate the capacity and storage of their stockpiles for better data management. In terms of elevating poaching to crisis level, in 2009, members of the security cluster would not have been as supportive of anti-poaching strategies as they were now. The economic and social development cluster had also come on board as part of a national, integrated strategy. The President himself as also made pronouncements of the issue of rhino poaching so while the challenge might not be labelled “crisis”, it was viewed in a very serious light by many people even including National Treasury with its additional allocations to assist in fighting the scourge.

Ms J Edwards (DA) was excited to hear about the app being used in CITES and she asked if it would be available on all operating systems and how far the app would be used instead of paper.  She wanted to know how the trade in rhino as an animal differed in trade of the stockpile in terms of the CITES rule. If there was trade of the stockpile, how would it be regulated?

Minister Molewa said that SA would not make a proposal to CITES to trade in rhino horn because there were still a number of matters the country needed to finalise such as stockpile numbers, who would the country trade with, stimulation of demand management, what the horn would be used for etc. SA was working with countries like Vietnam to get the message across that it was bad to kill rhino as part of demand management. 

Ms Carol explained the app worked on all phones and the information was busy being populated with documents. During COP, the intention was not to have a file of documents available but to refer people to the app. 

Ms H Kekana (ANC) questioned if the stats on rhino poaching released by the Minister included those rhino killed on private reserves.

Minister Molewa responded that the stats included those rhinos killed on private reserves.

Mr S Makhubele (ANC) noted that the first presentation alluded to interaction between southern-African countries and the rest of the Africa to generate consensus – in the proposals made by SA, would the proposals be supported by the Africa group? Another presentation spoke to interviews with kingpins and poachers indicating why they got into the business of poaching – these interviews showed that SA had serious problems on its hands and that there were more questions than answers. There was an international ban on the trade of rhino horn while private owners were being encouraged to farm rhinos but could not farm – was this not a contradiction in that people were encouraged to farm rhino but not allowed to trade.

Minister Molewa explained that there was a ban on the trading of the rhino horn internationally and a moratorium on the trade locally but there was still trading of the live rhino through proper permitting. Government’s stockpile of horn was audited but there were questions around the number of horn in the private sector and this needed to be known – this was why the data baking of the privately owned stockpiles had begun but unfortunately it was not completed in time for CITES. If SA made a proposal to trade in the rhino horn locally, CITES would want to know the stockpile numbers. The plight and challenges experienced by the private owners was known by the Department but there were also difficulties for the country – everyone was suffering which meant there was a need to work together as fast as possible.

Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, DEA DDG: Biodiversity and Conservation, added that in the main, SA enjoyed support from other African countries but there were some maters where SA did not find support because there were often different contexts involved. 

Mr P Mabilo (ANC) noted that COP17 of CITES was regarded as the largest COP to CITES to take place thus far It was regarded as the most critical COP in the 42 year history of CITES and there was a growing level of interest. He was inquisitive as to why this was the case with COP17 of CITES and what the expectation swere. On the issue of poaching, he was concerned that there was always no deterrent to committing this crime which made the poachers emboldened and determined – what contextual factors contributed to this in that poachers did not feel discouraged or fearful? On the stabilisation of the poaching, his opinion was that the emphasis should not be on stabilising the numbers, as this maintained the status quo, but on having the upper hand. 

Minister Molewa indicated that the downward trend was not being celebrated but was merely being acknowledged. Members should also be educating constituencies about this scourge as was happening in KZN. It was also important to remain realistic given the challenges experienced especially when speaking about eradication. The emphasis was on decreasing even up to zero.

Dr Annette Hubschle, University of Cape Town, wanted to know more about the transformation of the private rhino owners sector and requested an overview of ownership and shareholder patterns in terms of those black-owned. She also asked if the industry looked at custodian programmes and community empowerment.

Mr Douglas outlined that the private rhino owners association was a membership-based organisation and there were different transformation models. There were also matters relating to land claims and while there was a growth in pure ranching this was not specific to rhino as it was not a very lucrative species to own on one’s property at the moment.

Mr T Hadebe (DA) was very concerned that the numbers of rhinos poached in the country’s parks were still unacceptably too high and this made him question where efforts were failing – what was not being done correctly? The strategy needed to be reviewed to better assess the situation and look at other options if needed. On the proposal to transfer elephant to Appendix I, he asked what SA’s position was in this regard. 

Minister Molewa responded that the fight against poaching was a real one and it took great effort to get the message across to everyone even with all measures to disrupt the criminal syndicates. Other authorities were also involved in the fight like Interpol. The matter of poaching involved deep-seated beliefs, money and syndicates. A specialist group did work on SA elephants and it was found that there was an overpopulation of both elephant and lion. 

The Chairperson said the Committee looked forward to participating in CITES as was determined by the programme and guided by the SA position.

SANParks: Rhino Poaching in the Kruger National Park: Successes, Challenges and Pitfalls

Mr Nicholas Funda, SANParks Head: Special Projects, began by outlining context to the Kruger National Park in that it consisted of 2 000 000 ha, had a 1 000km boundary with international borders including the Lembombo Mountain Range. The Park had an average of 1.7 million tourists annually, 15 000 elephants, 8 000 rhino, millions of hectares of alliances and some 30 desperate poachers. The presentation also covered the composite protection zone (which would require unprecedented cross-border cooperation and local community involvement), joint protection zone and intensive protection zone.

The Committee was then informed of the joint operations centre where SANParks worked with the SA Police Service (SAPS), SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and Mozambique. In terms of national crime coordination, there was the National Priority Committee on Wildlife Crime which consisted of provincial authorities, DEA, SANParks, private rhino owners and private security industry representatives in addition to SSA, SAPS, the SA Revenue Service (SARS), the Departments of Justice and Home Affairs. National coordination to provinces included human resources, mobilisation of finance, technological and technical capabilities and information and data analysis and management through a dedicated national coordinator.

Mr Funda then discussed stats relating to rhino poaching in the KNP, the use of technology and collaborations with the countries bordering the Park. Looking at effort, the Committee was told that the KNP had willing, committed and capable rangers.

Looking at challenges and their mitigation, this was not limited to:

•Expected role of SA in the Greater Limpopo Trans-frontier Conservation areas.

•Increase of Rhino orphans

•Different doctrines from Security Cluster to be managed

•Poaching was about people i.e. Ranger Wellness was important

•Arresting our own -  the role of traitors

•The campaign was continually demanding more resources

•Managing the hotspots in the Park was important for both tourism and conservation.

Pitfalls identified included:

•Poachers shooting at SANPark helicopters

•Ranger shot in the arm

•Communication and messaging

•Sharing information and lessons learned with public and private sectors

•Balancing conservation of biodiversity and rhino and elephant poaching

•Drought surprises e.g. rare sightings and possible poaching

•Vulture poisoning disasters in the north of the Park

In conclusion, the rhino protection campaign was strong on addressing the supply side. Demand management was difficult to measure, and hence it was hard to address it. Poaching was an ecological, security, economic and social problem and the security cluster was working to address this ecological problem. There was a need to mobilise the social cluster to address economic and social problems as the main drivers of poaching were human beings (greed, culture and basic needs), machines (e.g. firearms) and money.

WWF: Rhino Programme

Dr Jo Shaw, WWF Manager: Rhino Programme, began her presentation by taking the Committee through the five-point strategic framework for rhino conservation which included:

1.Resilient populations

2.Community engagement

3.Law/security enforcement support

4.Trade chain cooperation

5.Demand and trade management

Successes included:

-level of commitment and scale of response shown by SA overall

-strategic, integrated and innovative approaches

-recognition of a broader, economic security threat

-decrease in poaching from KNP in the face of increased incursions

-increased arrests and not only poachers but higher up on the trade chain

-recognition of the need to address rhino poaching as part of transnational networks

Challenges included:

-need for long term funds to support rhino conservation actions for all areas/owners

-spread of poaching threat from KNP to other provinces and parks

-increasing pressure on rhinos in Namibia and Zimbabwe

-resolve relationships between rural communities and conservation area on a deeper level and not just paying the matter lip-service

-issues with corruption on a global scale associated with transnational trafficking networks

-alleged diplomatic involvement in trafficking horn  in North Korea and Vietnam in earlier years – challenging for law enforcement but needed addressing in innovative ways

Dr Shaw then outlined pitfalls, namely:

-divisive debates around sustainable use/demand reduction

-threats associated with more intensive breeding of rhinos

-raising unrealistic expectations within communities when talking about community projects

-need for increased convictions following from increased arrests in SA

-law enforcement response required for illegal behaviour in Mozambique, and consumer countries like Vietnam and China as it was emphasised in SA – hope that CITES could be used as opportunity for this

Opportunities to note included:

-CITES to hold countries to account on actions – especially enforcement action in Asia

-greater collaboration nationally, regionally and internationally for impact along with the illicit trade chain

Successes, Challenges and Pitfalls of Anti-Rhino Poaching Strategies
Dr Annette Hubschle took the Committee through the presentation beginning with looking at successes namely that:

  • Rhino poaching was a priority crime
  • The new National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking was being authorised
  • Rhino numbers were stable
  • Arrest numbers were up (but there was still a question around convictions)
  • Increased Private-public partnerships
  • Consultations with civil society
  • SA was hosting CITES (need for greater African cooperation)

Challenges included:

  • Focus on local interventions
  • The first segments of the rhino supply chain were out of the country
  • Communities
  • Wildlife industry
  • Corruption
  • War rhetoric

After going through the levels of organised crime, the presentation discussed what information came from rhino poaching criminals themselves. From her research, Dr Hubschle found the motivations for poaching included:

  • Poaching for the ‘cooking pot and pocket book’ i.e. to meet basic needs
  • Existing orders and keen buyers (demand and supply)
  • Human Wildlife Conflict
  • Unhappiness with the rules/income distribution from conservancies and parks
  • Perception of unfair land use, hunting rights and expansion of conservation areas into communal land/former hunting areas
  • Discontent (double morality vis-à-vis legal hunts) and militarisation, outsourcing of regulation and enforcement to non-state actors)
  • Money laundering and criminal currency (organised crime)

Dr Hubschle found that the current approach to declare “war” on poaching and poachers emphasised militarisation when there was a need to be transparent with communities regarding the deaths of poachers. Questions to ask were how displacement and the creation of buffer zones affect communities. There was a need for greater integration of community wellbeing with the wellbeing of the rhino and while law enforcement was necessary, it was best to stay clear of war rhetoric.

The rhino horn economy included the illegal market, legal market and grey market. Further embedded markets included:

  • hunting markets
  • transport markets
  • medicine markets
  • art markets
  • live animals
  • traditional handicrafts
  • forgeries
  • organised crime
  • luxury goods
  • horn paraphernalia

Dr Hubschle highlighted that gray flows included:

-laundering of stockpiled/illegally hunted horn into legal flows

-flouting of regulatory determinations e.g. pseudo-hunting

-exploitation of loopholes (round-tripping)

-identification of unregulated/undetermined terrain

Plugging these regulatory loopholes/grey markets meant that there should be a focus on grey cannels especially the loopholes exploited by rogue elements in the wildlife industry such as laundering from unregistered stockpiles, pseudo trophy hunts and pre-Convention horn.

In conclusion, a whole-of-society approach was laudable and needed to be implemented. There was also a need to be cognizant of the history of conservation in SA (colonialism and apartheid) and to not repeat mistakes such as ‘forced removals’ and the language of ‘war’. The message should also be emphasized that a live rhino was more valuable than a dead one. A question to ask was what the incentives were for communities to turn a blind eye/participate in illegal wildlife economies. There should be incentives for participation in legal wildlife economies while there was also a need for further research on all segments of the rhino supply chain.  

Discussion

Dr Ferreira raised a question around convictions in terms of legal vs. civil action. 

Dr Shaw recently heard that assets that had been forfeited could be used for communities or to meet other project needs, which was an interesting idea to consider.

Dr Annette agreed and highlighted that it was also important to study where the money came from to fund poaching and where the money went from poaching profits. The Financial Intelligence Centre and other authorities would have a role to play in this regard.

Mr Hadebe asked about the use of technology such as drones and cameras in fighting the scourge of rhino poaching. He also recently heard about the culling of hippo and buffalo in the KNP due to drought and wanted to know if this was true. The presentation by the WWF made reference to sources of funding to support rhino conservation actions for all areas/owners – where would such funding come from and how would this support be carried out? Many farmers were currently struggling to protect their rhino so it would be of great help.

Dr Shaw acknowledged that funding was always struggle but she heard mention of a tourism levy which might be a possible way to generate funds.

Mr Funda said drones were used in KNP but the problem was if poor quality equipment was used there would be poor results. Tests done in Kruger were not positive and it was found that the use of drones were not suitable for anti-poaching. Drones were good for counting populations, developing census and monitoring the growth of trees for example. Technology was needed which could detect a poacher and provide the exact position – the drone was not doing that.

Responding on the culling, Dr Ferreira explained the culling was not about controlling hippo numbers – the KNP had a legacy of water where old dams were built many years ago. When there was drought, the dams dried up and hippo started to live there and completely occupied natural springs often keeping other animals away and poisoned the springs through defecation. There was then a response to managing a pathology of past water problems while the culling of hippo brought an opportunity to reach out to people who were having a hard time.  

The Chairperson asked what happened to the animals after they were culled.

Dr Ferreira said there was a meat operation plant in Skakuza where the meat was processed and made available to people.

Mr Makhubele, looking at transformation and community involvement, asked if there were suggestions on what kind of models could be used in this regard.

Dr Shaw replied that rhino farming could be an economic solution to communities but she urged caution that if largely resourced and funded private farmers could not sustain rhino ownership than it was unfair for communities to be able to. Opportunities to communities must be realistic with the necessary support provided. There were successful examples of public-private partnerships in Namibia but SA was a different environment with a lot more people to deal with. The peri-urban population around Kruger was a huge challenge which required innovative solutions and new ways of working.

Mr Wilhelm Schack, Director: Eko Wild, asked the Minister if she thought it would be a good long-term strategy for Africa to establish a permanent convention more or less based on the CITES model on the African continent on the sustainable use of wildlife resources. This would enable the country to come up, independently, with its own solutions and not be dictated to by international authorities because Africa was the custodian of wildlife. Could such a convention not have real substantial value at this point?

Minister Molewa said the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) already existed on the African continent but the challenge was that no one came to listen to what the convention was discussing compared to other international conventions. This also applied to funding and other aspects. It was a noble idea to have an internal convention but she questioned if it would really work.

The Chairperson questioned the impact of establishing a transnational and trans-frontier park to allow for the free movement of animals and people particularly on the border with Mozambique – how would such a park also impact the movement of poachers into Kruger?

Mr Funda thought the concept of a trans-frontier park was based on managing ecosystems based on no national boundaries. The rivers SA shared with Mozambique showed that ecosystems did not follow political boundaries. In Kruger, the trans-frontier had many advantages like understanding what was happening in Mozambique in terms of their capability to deal with poachers and there was better cooperation than when the area was not a trans-frontier park. In the long term, a trans-frontier park was the most sustainable land use to uplift poor communities and maintain functioning ecosystems.

Dr Shaw did not think the issue was about building a fence or physical barrier to keep people out – the emphasis was on socio-economic matters arising from land, land use and the way parks were created in terms of the historical error from removing people from conservation land and not providing alternatives which led to poor socio-economic living conditions.

Dr Annette added that fences and neighbours were never a great situation – fences did not stop anyone from coming in. The question was who was being kept out through the establishment of fences.

Minister Molewa said that SA had about 15 trans-frontier parks but the only one where the challenge lied was the park with Mozambique. It was vital to look at historical legacies of people being removed etc. and to question if a trans-frontier park was fruitful or not – the answer might not be a straight yes or no but the question needed to be examined.

Closing

The Chairperson thanked all present stakeholders, Members and the panel which provided valuable insights on rhino poaching. He reiterated that this was the first in a series of colloquiums the Committee would host – the next one was scheduled for November and would be around climate change. CITES would yield interesting discussion and the Committee looked forward to attending, observing and participating where necessary.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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