Rhino Poaching; Marion Island challenges

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

14 August 2018
Chairperson: Mr M Mapulane (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

There were three presentations to the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs. The first presentation was by a panel of experts on Rhino poaching in South Africa. Rhino conservation, Dr George Hughes commented, is not nature conservation today, but an economic one. When the first major poaching effort began, it was decided at a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species meeting that a ban on Rhino poaching was a solution to a problem. This was typical Western thinking to impose a Western concept onto a large and very vigorous enriching community made up primarily of Chinese beneficiaries. The net result was that poaching immediately shot up. When poaching shot up, we lost about 90% of the Black Rhino in Africa in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It was catastrophic for the Black Rhino population. Nature conservation is not just about security. It should all be turned to beneficiation. Nature conservation concerns the continued existence of South Africa’s wildlife into the future in a sustainable manner. This cannot be achieved without the involvement of the wealthiest to the previously disadvantaged. If the economics is overlooked, interventions will fail. It is hoped that South Africans will give support to the further growth of the wildlife industry. Sustainable use has been proven to be of enormous value.

The Chairperson highlighted that the concept of sustainable use has proven to assist in conservation, unlike what other people have argued, especially the animal rights movement. The Committee subscribes to this concept. It was part of a delegation that accompanied the Department to Brussels to argue that South Africa is in support of sustainable use of its wildlife assets, because South Africa benefits a lot from the economics thereof. It is also in South Africa’s Constitution. It is quite refreshing to receive feedback from experts that this is the right path to take.

A Member voiced her disappointment that, in spite of the urgency of rhino poaching, neither the Minister or Deputy-Minister were present. Members enquired about the stockpile of rhino horns in the Kruger National Park and the provincial parks; what legislative changes were needed to arrest the problem and if the Department had been approached to simplify the trophy hunting regulatory regime.

The second presentation was by the Department on SANParks’ strategic interventions to curb rhino poaching. The Department stressed that sustainable use is part of conservation. Therefore, South Africa’s legislative framework and its approaches and systems are within that same context. This has informed how the DEA has approached the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species matters. The principle remains that the Department must do all that it can to ensure the survival of species in the wild. Science and fact-based arguments are very important and should supersede any emotional aspect associated with this. There will always be criticisms, but at the end of the day, numbers will always tell a story, especially when it comes to the growth of numbers of species.

The Department said the key focus areas going forward are, among others, law enforcement awareness and the Biodiversity Law Curriculum, and the areas of focus, among others, are the implementation of Rhino Lab Initiatives; approval of the National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Strategy; continue to strengthen capability of SAPS Crime Intelligence; elephant poaching; Sharing of information between all role players required; further work focusing on bail; need to still strengthen capability in relation to international investigations and see how the speedy sharing of information can be facilitated.

Members asked about the cooperation between all role players, in particular the Department and Hawks; the MOUs between South Africa and Namibia; the sentencing for transgressors; if rangers are adequately trained for their job and the Department’s position on trophy hunting, especially around concerns of overregulation? 

The Chairperson reiterated that a follow-up will be scheduled on the preparation for convention on International Trade of Endangered Species on what needs to be done to be ready for the relook into the listing around this issue. In this engagement, what needs to be discussed is how we understand the market of the Rhino horn, what is pushing this market, what are the dynamics and how to respond to this. The market will always exist, whether it is legal or illegal. This will be discussed when Department returns.

The third presentation was by the Department of Environmental Affairs on the South African National Antarctic Programme and a follow up on Marion Island. The key purpose of the research is to 1) Assess conservation status and advise conservation interventions, 2) Monitor ecosystem change and health, 3) Contribute to ecosystem-based management, 4) Understand movements of highly-migratory, trans-boundary species and resultant threats and 5) Contribute to international agreements to which South Africa is a party.
The Department outlined the logistical challenges experienced in 2017/18, these included generator problems and the challenges related to engine oil leakages, domestic hot water geyser and food item shortages. It also explained the circumstances surrounding the medical evacuation and return from Marion on May 2018.

Members complained that the presentation was inadequate and did not address specific concerns. Members asked about how conflicts are dealt with out there and what processes are available for employees or those who are under investigation to raise questions; whether any research was being done as to what kinds of plastic and also the impact that it has on the island itself; and are there proper mechanisms to address issues (e.g. leadership) that emerge.

The Chairperson asked for a follow-up as the report was not worth looking at. The Committee wants a full account of what happened and to be taken through what remedies are being put in place to ensure that it does not happen again. Moreover, an update is needed on the research work on the Marion Islands, which can be expanded to Antarctica.

Meeting report

Opening remarks by Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed everyone present and said the Committee had received a request from a group of experts who have an interest in Rhino poaching. The letter was from, among others, Dr George Hughes, David Cook, Dr John Hanks and a number of conservationists that have a history in working in conservation. The presenters would brief the Committee on Rhino poaching. This is a question that has always been on the Committee’s radar screen and is indeed a national crisis. This is an opportunity to interrogate this issue once again. Has there been success in curbing rhino poaching.

Apologies were received from the Minister and the Deputy-Minister, the DG needs to depart the meeting earlier.  

Briefing by the Experts on Rhino Poaching
Dr Hughes, Scientist, stated that South Africa has achieved a great deal in wildlife conservation. South Africa has the greatest wildlife industry in the world. When guns and industry arrived, the expansion of the exploitation of wildlife resources exceeded the ability of our natural populations to survive. The then colony of Natal was the first part of Southern Africa to establish a protected area to try and save the last of the white and black rhinoceros and the native hippo populations. The helicopter helped to reinvigorate the entire game industry.

The entire white rhino population highlighted, lived in Umfolozi Game Reserve. Today, across the Province, there are literally hundreds of white rhinos. South Africa has made wild animals part of its economic core. We have acknowledged that wildlife is an economic force in the country and we have encouraged that. David Cook was involved in the early days in developing legislation that transferred the ownership of wildlife from informal conservation and gave the control and ownership of wildlife to people who bought it. As a result of this, the expansion of wildlife has been phenomenal. The ability of the private sector to beneficiate such things has been incredible. The implications of these protected areas on the conservation of wildlife has been immense. The Kruger National Park is a global icon.

Dr highlighted that Nature conservation has always been criticised for not being effectively inclusive, but since 1977 there were black Zulu board members on the Natal Parks Board. The game auctions were remarkably successful. When Black rhino were put on auction, the Province was criticised by NGOs. One of the strong features of nature conservation in South Africa was adaptive management and sustainable use. It would try something and if it worked, it would expand on it. If this was not possible, something else would be tried. The value of game flew off. With the policy of sustainable use, the population of the white rhino has gone right up to 22 000. The private sector has been allowed to take ownership and has been given the power to beneficiate the net result. This is probably one of the greatest wildlife recoveries the world has ever seen from 30 to 21 000. This was from a very small genetic base. There is no sign of genetic deterioration or genetic drift.

Rhino conservation is not nature conservation today, but an economic one. When the first major poaching effort began, it was decided at a Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) meeting that a ban on rhino poaching was a solution to a problem. This was typical Western thinking to impose a Western concept onto a large and very vigorous enriching community made up primarily of Chinese beneficiaries. The net result was that poaching immediately shot up. When poaching shot up, we lost about 90% of the black rhino in Africa in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It was catastrophic for the black rhino population.

Dr Hughes stressed that today 50% of the world’s rhino population, is owned by South African farmers. It is something that no other country in the world can even contemplate. The effect of poaching has resulted in the reduction in the market value of outstanding crop of rhino. This has also resulted in the decrease in the number of animals and the prices that are achieved at auctions. It has been conceded by Rhino owners in South Africa that rhino horn trade would be beneficial to the rhino and South Africa. At the moment, all the costs are being borne by South Africa and all the profits are being collected by everybody else. It is a position that South Africa cannot win if it proceeds in the same way. In KZN today, a poacher is offered R100 000 cash reward. In communities that have been deprived in the past, a temptation like that is simply beyond their dreams. They are provided with the tools. The risk is also such that the chances of getting caught are fairly small.  Every time someone gets killed in a protected area, or any other area that is set aside for wildlife, is a negative. This should not happen in South Africa. People should benefit from wildlife and not die from trying to steal it.

Sustainable use is a conservation tool. It is not something different from conservation. It is conservation. South Africa has proved that it is conservation. The organisation is in support of hunting. It activated to have a professional hunters’ register. There are hunting areas which are different from the protected areas. The protected areas show how our wildlife as it was and as it should be. There has been a tremendous increase in the amount of game and industry growth. The game industry is producing growth of nearly 10% per annum in South Africa. There has been enormous growth in the value of game sales and in trophy hunting.

One of the appeals is that the industry receives much more support from government. It should be seen as an asset to be expanded upon and not over regulated. The standards should be manageable, right, correct and morally valuable. They should not be overburdened with too many regulations in order to encourage the expansion of the entire industry. We are interested in sustainability. We can expand our estate enormously and the great opportunity exists. We foresee that the benefits flowing to ownership will further expand the understanding of nature conservation and also bring economic dividends to our people. Over the last 30 years, KwaZulu-Natal has done a lot to encourage community participation.

Among the effective conservation measures, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently recognised a component called ‘other effective conservation measures,’ which includes all of our private sector tourism facilities, private parks, hunting areas. It has an effective conservation component which is recognised by the IUCN. The figure of 8.5% is now trebled in South Africa. South Africa exceeds what has been set by the IUCN as a minimum standard. This is a remarkable achievement.

Dr Hughes concluded that Nature conservation is not just about security. It should all be turned to beneficiation. Nature conservation concerns the continued existence of South Africa’s wildlife into the future in a sustainable manner. This cannot be achieved without the involvement of the wealthiest to the previously disadvantaged. If the economics is overlooked, interventions will fail. It is hoped that South Africans will give support to the further growth of the wildlife industry. Sustainable use has been proven to be of enormous value.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the presenters for the informative presentation about the historical evolution of conservation in South Africa, with particular reference to KZN. It is true that the conservation record of South Africa has been excellent. It is the responsibility of this generation to look after that excellent record and sustain it going into the future.
The Committee was supposed to have a colloquium on the captive breeding of lions. Two days have been scheduled next week to deal with this particular issue which is very topical and controversial, which threatens the conservation record which was to eloquently be articulated here today.

Ms D Carter (COPE) voiced her disappointment that, in spite of the urgency of the question of rhino poaching, neither the Minister or Deputy-Minister were present. On three occasions, she had personally handed the Minister a document that could be the answer to the problems South Africa has, namely, the rhino and the vicunas parallel. Till today, nothing has been done about it. While very little has been done, the answer is sitting right in front of everyone. The fleece of many vicunas was used to make one jacket and they were in high demand. At the end of the day, there were no vicunas left. The same principle applies to rhinos. The history, product of and demand for the rhino are great and it also regrows. The vicuna, like the rhino, was also surrounded by impoverished communities. Both were threatened by poaching. With the vicuna especially, communities were approached to start generating an income. Instead of a poacher in a community getting R15 000 for killing a rhino, that entire community, if we start dehorning, can actually benefit. The DEA must urgently look into this. It must be looked into to see whether government can get the communities to benefit from the rhino horn as well as elephant tusks. If it comes to the push, South Africa needs to say to CITES that it is not interested anymore. South Africa has achieved so much with nature conservation and cannot allow agreements to stand in its way. Empowering communities is one thing. Looking at farmers, their rhino has absolutely no value. They, however, have costs in terms of ensuring the safety of the rhino.
A further pressing question: what is the stockpile of rhino horns in the Kruger National Park and the provincial parks? This question has not been answered by the Minister. If these horns are put on a controlled auction and the supply is controlled, then South Africa can also control the demand. If controlled auctions are done, the market will be, to a certain extent, saturated.

Ms Carter asked if she could distribute her document.   

The Chairperson commented that the remarks by Ms Carter were appreciated. The gathering can do with the documents. The Committee has not had sight of the document. The DEA would indicate what they have done if they have received the document.    

Mr R Purdon (DA) thanked the presenter for the informative presentation. It was a pity that not more members of the public could have heard it. The presenter gave a lot of emphasis of sustainability as a conservation tool. There is a common saying in the industry: ‘if it does not pay, it does not stay.’ Clarity is needed as to whether the presenter is in favour of the harvesting of horns and legalisation. If Dr Hughes could wave a wand, what legislation would he change today?

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) appreciated the presentation. First, in terms of trophy hunting, it was said that it is overregulated and that the regulatory regime should be simplified. Has the DEA been engaged on this view and are there proposals? Second, the presenter referred to beneficiation in terms of the areas around the parks. This is an area that requires a lot of transformation because of South Africa’s past. Are there beneficiation models and best practices that could be shared in more detail with a view towards communities gaining some kind of ownership so as to deter them from participating in criminal activities simply because they are not benefiting?

Ms Carter continued that, in terms of conservation, white lions are bred in the Free State. When the demand comes from a hunter and the lion is put back into the wild, which has been hand bred and loved by human beings, to be shot, what should be changed in this from a nature conservation perspective? 

The Chairperson responded that this particular question will be the subject of discussion next week. The Committee should not delve into this question now since it has enough time next week. She asked Dr Hughes what his view was about legislation to protect rhinos against poaching? Is the legislative regime as it exists sufficient, especially to empower the criminal justice system and the rangers to deal with the poaching problem? The Committee has agitated for the introduction of legislation to ensure that there are serious penalties that would serve as a deterrent against these criminals who are poaching. There are arguments that, not only rhino, but wildlife crime in general, is not sufficiently provided for in the legislation. It was not clear what specific proposals are being put forward on the issue of the conservation of rhino and CITES for instance. Can this be elaborated on more?  

Dr Hughes highlighted the question about legislation is generic. Legal opinions have been received to the effect that the DEA is making things more complex than need be in order to make any trade of protected wildlife as tight as possible. Going too far is nearly as damaging as not going far enough. With more extensive integration and involvement of communities, controls are needed that are not too burdensome or expensive for the practitioners. There is no particular piece of legislation which the presenters are targeting. The purpose of the presentation was simply to give to the Committee how long and hard the conservation bodies of South Africa worked to restore South Africa’s wildlife industry. The group is generally concerned about the loss of rhino in particular. If we lose the rhino, poachers will start on something else and the whole industry South Africa is so proud of will implode on itself. The legislation involving punishment of the people involved is adequate. What is heart-breaking is for someone from a rural community being given a R2 million fine for something that temptation has been put in his way and, worst still, has put their life on the line to poach. The temptation must be removed. If any rewards are going to flow, they must flow to the people of South Africa, not from outsiders coming in to destroy what has been created. This is the essence of what is being conveyed today. Sustainable use has benefited South Africa. If South Africa does establish a trade in rhino products, or even ivory, the preference would be for a far more controlled organisation.
The idea of hand rearing lions to be shot inside fence is anathema for those who champion conservation. The people rearing lions for agricultural purposes such as the export of lion bones, provided that the animal welfare meets a high standard, the agricultural use of that product is not conservation. From a personal perspective, canned hunting should simply not be allowed. Human beings live by sustainable use. Vegans who do not eat meat are still eating from sustainable use and are derived from wild products in the first place. Those who do not believe in sustainable use, it is surprising that they are still alive. Everything that sustains humanity is fundamentally based on sustainable use.        

Dr Alan Sara commented that, in terms of rhino poaching, there are two huge opportunities for the South African government. First, the wildlife industry last year made R80 billion. The wildlife industry produced more than the beef industry. Second, it is only a tiny minority of South Africans that benefit from that R80 billion. The government have a huge opportunity, especially in light of the most pertinent debate at the moment, namely, the redistribution of land. It is not so much the physical redistribution of land that is the important issue, but giving the masses of South Africans the opportunity to benefit from the proceeds from the land. When there is an industry that generates R80 billion in one year, it is a golden opportunity for the general communities to benefit. There are hundreds of ways in which this can take place. The next massive opportunity is that the single most profitable unit of the R80 billion is rhino horn. The sustainable use of wildlife must entail the sustainable use of rhino horn. The sustainable use of rhino horn the benefit communities is an absolute no-brainer. There are models which demonstrate how communities can benefit from the use of rhino horn. The only why rhino horn can be used sustainably is for it to be legalised. Rhino horn falls into the CITES 1 category, meaning that nothing can be done with it. In the 1960s, the Nile crocodile was in CITES 1 and it became a massive token of wealth. The poaching of crocodiles went through the roof. The population of Nile crocodile plummeted through illegal poaching. Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, decided not to be party to the CITES agreement. It allowed ranching and sustainable use of crocodiles. There are more Nile crocodiles than before. Rhino horns are exactly the same, except for one fundamental difference: the rhino does not have to be killed. South Africa has enough stockpiles to filter into the international market and to control the price for ten years without dehorning one rhino. There is enough rhino horn through natural fatalities of rhino. If South Africa is allowed to sell this rhino through a very controlled mechanism, that wealth can go back into conservation and can be distributed to communities. If one is going to agree to sustainable use, one may as well use the rhino horn. From a macro perspective, the single request that rhino conservationists want is to change rhino horn from appendix 1 to appendix 2 in CITES which allows us to legally trade with rhino horn. Ultimately, at the end of the day, two birds can be killed with one stone, namely, to save the rhino and uplift all surrounding communities. Not to do so would be a missed opportunity.    

Mr David Cook said conservation must be seen as a business as well as a cultural inheritance. In 1971, Natal suffered the embarrassing situation of having too many rhinos. It engaged in the translocation of breeding populations as far north as Kenya. This obligation has been fulfilled and the genetic pool has been dispersed in a way to safeguard the future of these species. Animals and breeding groups were then moved oversees to, among others, zoological institutions to seek new markets in Europe and the USA. Over 1000 white rhino were sold and shipped out to various parks. South Africa faced a situation that it did not have a new market. In 1971, a crucial decision was made to amend a provincial ordinance which took to white rhino from ‘specially protected,’ which was endangered in provincial terms, and put onto the ‘protected’ list. At that stage, there were no white rhino on private property. Currently, there are 6000. The reason is economics and because the incentive to be able to use the animal sustainably for, among others, hunting, made a huge difference to future expansion of rhino diversity and also the safeguarding of white rhino.
The next jet-propelled era for the economic value of white rhino is when the trade in horn is legalised. That is the next crucial step which will increase the conservation value of the animal; it will create extraordinary opportunities for local communities to be able to engage in the husbandry of the white rhino on communal land. CITES must be moved to accept the fact that the white rhino is no longer endangered and it can be moved to appendix 2, which will expand the future of the animal on the face of the earth. Economics drove the expansion of the white rhino. The private sector plays a massive role. Local communities must play a part as well.           

The Chairperson thanked the speaker for the incisive contribution.  

Dr Hughes highlighted that people were initially opposed to the selling of rhino horn in South Africa because they felt that populations of rhino in other parts of the world would be made more vulnerable. The argument was that a ban would assist countries that were perhaps less able to look after their rhino. However, this approach has been proved wrong. Over the last 41 years, the entire population of West African Black rhino has been lost. The northern White rhino is also extinct. Two subspecies have already died around the world. The tendency is to emphasise the negative benefits of the ban rather than the positive benefits which do not exist. South Africa is the only country in the world that can stand up and hold its head high. South Africa should not be victimised for what could happen in another country. South Africa is in a position of enormous strength and it should benefit from it   

The Chairperson stressed that the concept of sustainable use has proven to assist in conservation, unlike what other people have argued, especially the animal rights movement. The Committee subscribes to this concept. It was part of a delegation that accompanied the department to Brussels to argue that South Africa is in support of sustainable use of its wildlife assets, because South Africa benefits a lot from the economics thereof. It is also in South Africa’s Constitution. It is quite refreshing to receive feedback from experts that this is the right path to take.  The DEA is negotiating with CITES on South Africa’s behalf. The DEA will brief the Committee on progress in this regard. There is a committee of inquiry to look into this. The sooner this is concluded the better. There is a need to make a scientific proposal that is backed by information. Dr Hughes and colleagues can be made a part of the resource team to help the DEA to put together something for CITES. The global community must accept that South Africa needs to derive income from the conservation of rhino, unlike what is happening at the moment. Private owners gave a presentation in which they highlighted the exorbitant increase in the money they are spending on security. There are no benefits to private owners arising from keeping the rhino; this is why most of them are selling them.   

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General, DEA, explained that the DEA’s presentation is structured in a manner that demonstrates the various efforts including some of the considerations around the trade agreement in the proposals of the committee of inquiry’s recommendations. Based on the committee of inquiry, South Africa still has to do a lot of lobbying. South Africans may have a common view but more of CITES parties are needed to support a proposal. The DEA has been treading carefully because the department sees the NGOs as partners and there has been quite a significant push back in that respect. Some of the proposals made by Ms Carter are covered in the recommendations that were put forward by the committee of inquiry.

After introducing the presenters from the DEA, Ms Ngcaba highlighted that the interventions have been approached from different fronts. The security intervention is most difficult for the DEA as a conservation sector.

Briefing by DEA on the update on the initiatives to curb the killing of rhinos and wildlife trafficking
Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director-General Biodiversity and Conservation: DEA, stressed that sustainable use is part of conservation. Therefore, South Africa’s legislative framework and its approaches and systems are within that same context. This has informed how the DEA has approached CITES matters. The principle remains that DEA must do all that it can to ensure the survival of species in the wild. Science and fact-based arguments are very important and should supersede any emotional aspect associated with this. There will always be criticisms, but at the end of the day, numbers will always tell a story, especially when it comes to the growth of numbers of species.

Strategic Overview
After presenting an outline of the presentation, Mr Munzhedzi unpacked the strategic overview; the strategic interventions since 2008, the implementation of the 2010 strategy; the 2014 Cabinet approved Integrated Strategic Management Approach for Rhinoceros; the successes of the strategies; Rhino conservation as one of the work streams under the Biodiversity Lab; the COI’s 5 pillars of Rhino conservation; the 5 initiative of Community Empowerment; Rhino Population management; and Responsive legislation and permitting. Among the successes of the strategies are the following:

  1. Awareness of and political support at the highest level of the need to combat rhino poaching.
  2. Engaged in programme of promoting demand reduction in consumer states.
  3. Significantly increased resources, skills and technology to support law enforcement.

Ms Frances Craigie, Chief Directorate – Enforcement: DEA, gave a breakdown of attempts to convert lab outcomes into functional deliverables in terms of anti-poaching and NISCWT. In terms of anti-poaching, this includes:

  1. A zoning approach is also now implemented in three game reserves in KZN and on in Eastern Cape; there is a
  2. Sharing of information and best practice at a national level;
  3. Critical review of ranger salary levels and job functions

Rhino
Ms Craigie presented a graph on the Rhino poached in South Africa between 2000 and 2017; illegal killing of Rhino 2015/2017 per province; the NATJOINTS Operation Rhino; the 2016 and 2017 statistics for HIP, case management, suspects arrested, firearms and ammunition confiscated, and vehicles and rhino horns confiscated.

Investigation and prosecution analysis 
Ms Craigie proceeded to give a breakdown of the investigation and prosecution analysis; arrests in SA related to rhino poaching / trafficking 2013-2017; the cases involving rhino. 

Interventions: KwaZulu-Natal (SANParks)
After opening remarks by Mr Fundisile Mketeni, CEO SANParks; Mr Johan Jooste, Head of Special Projects: SANParks, gave a detailed description and analysis of the SANParks interventions, including Operation Eastgate.

Xolani Nicholas Funda, Chief Ranger of the Kruger National Park (KNP), spoke at length about the odds stacked against the interventions and the alliances that are needed and have been formed in order to curb rhino poaching; the National Campaign Strategy; the SANParks footprint; the Kruger National Park stakeholder engagement; and the Kruger National Park as an ‘Economic Engine’.

Mr Jooste spoke to the support that is given to provinces; the Mozambique paradigm in terms of interventions; the technology that is used and the layered approach that is adopted; the Wide Area Surveillance System (Meerkat); the Wildlife crime combating coordinating Centre; the impact of these interventions; and the wild life crime and corruption combatting approach.

Other species
Ms Craigie presented on the illegal killing of elephants; the illegal trade in ivory and pangolins; the illegal killing of lion; the illegal taking of Cycads from the wild; and CITES illegal trade report for 2016; and the CITES illegal trade report for 2016.

Partnerships   
Ms Rose Masela, Acting Chief Director: National Wildlife Information Management Unit: SANParks, presented on the national and regional partnerships; the Memoranda of Understanding (Biodiversity, Conservation or Wildlife); the Mozambique-SA MOU; the international partnerships. These partnerships occur at a national (e.g. South African Police Force, including the Hawks, SARS, Department of Justice etc.), regional (e.g. Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching Strategy (LEAP); Southern African Development Community structures, and through MOUs), and international (Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania etc.) levels. 

Ms Craigie explained, among others, law enforcement awareness and the Biodiversity Law Curriculum, concluding with the areas of focus, among others:

  1. Implementation of Rhino Lab Initiatives
  2. Approval of the NISCWT
  3. Continue to strengthen capability of SAPS Crime Intelligence
  4. Elephant poaching
  5. Sharing of information between all role players required
  6. Further work focusing on bail
  7. Need to still strengthen capability in relation to international investigations and see how the speedy sharing of information can be facilitated

Discussion
The Chairperson said that the Committee would be very happy to process the said legislation.

Mr Purdon asked, in terms of sharing of information between all role players, whether there is a good relation between the DEA and the Hawks? There is a sense that this is not happening as it should. If everyone is keeping the information to themselves, there will be no progress. Can someone comment on the MOUs between South Africa and Namibia? It has been said that it is not so good.
Can the DEA comment on the sentencing of transgressions? It seems as if the sentencing is too lenient. An article in June 2018 states that 2 persons accused of rhino poaching were released on bail for R50 000 each. This is pathetic.
Did the graph on the illegal killing of rhinos, does this include private owners?       

Mr Makhubele explained that in the communities around the parks, where people are recruited do carry out illegal activities, it becomes an incentive when people who are not working all of a sudden are driving a car. They know it is part of illegal activities but these people cannot be arrested. First, are the rangers adequately trained for their job? Last weekend, a ranger was buried after being killed by an elephant. If rangers are being killed, is it due to issues of training. Second, what is the position of the DEA on trophy hunting, especially around concerns of overregulation?  

Mr T Hadebe (DA) welcomed the presentations. If one looks at the strategic interventions, while what the DEA is doing is good, at the end of the day, the Department is not achieving its target of reducing rhino poaching. If the strategic interventions do not give the results by reducing the number of poached rhinos, these interventions are not effective. Moreover, the number of rhinos that are still being killed is very high of about 2.8 rhinos killed a day.   

The Chairperson, echoing Mr Hadebe, spoke to the statistics of rhinos killed. There is a very slight decrease in the rate of rhinos killed since its peak in 2014. The tide is turning but very slowly. It is unclear whether it is comparable to the resources that are being utilised for strategic intervention in terms of acquiring technology and employing more rangers. Normally when statistics are released annually, there is no interaction with and briefing for the Committee. When the DEA is ready, it must request to brief the Committee first. It is not in order that the Committee gets to interact with the statistics when it reads the papers. Going forward, things need to be done differently so that the rhino issue is, on an on-going basis, under Parliament’s radar. It is hoped that SANParks has corrected its indicator for rhino poaching activities when it presented its Annual Performance Plan. Apart from the measuring activities, it is also important for SANParks to measure the actual number of rhinos poached.

Mr Mketeni confirmed that SANParks was meant to update the Committee and review the indicator in September or October.

The Chairperson commented that it is commendable that legislation for rangers is strengthened so that when poachers are arrested it is difficult for them to get bail. When the rangers get convicted, there must be some minimum sentence. Rhino poaching must be elevated to a very serious crime in this country. If Members of Parliament do not become activists themselves, no one will raise their voices around these issues. The more we agitate for stricter legislation and laws, the more they will serve as a deterrent for poachers. The DEA must work out what is leading to this demand for rhino horn and how can this demand be satisfied in a manner which will protect the animals. It is not possible to eliminate. If South Africa’s stockpile of rhino horn is sufficient for 10 years, work must be done to find out whether this claim is backed by the evidence. For as long as there is demand, rhinos are going to be poached. However, this demand must be mitigated so that the battle is not only fought and won in the bush, but must also be won in the market. 
On a related note, what preparations are being made for the review of the CITES listing, of which the next conference is taking place in May 2019? What is the committee of inquiry saying and what are the recommendations? Until the two issues of demand and CITES are dealt with, there will be difficulty. There are continuous reports that there is no incentive for private owners to continue to keep these rhinos species on their farms. It attracts poachers and then they have to spend more on their security. This can only be addressed when there is a change in the listing so that they are allowed to trade with the horn in a way that is responsible and properly regulated so that there is an incentive for them to conserve the animals and increase the populations. For now, there is no such incentive. There may need to be an hour briefing to the Committee on these two issues, namely, CITES and the demand for rhino horn. It will also be necessary to have a follow-up briefing on all the issues broached in relation to rhino poaching.            

Mr Munzhedzi stated that, while the CITES issue is very involved, it suffices to say that there are defined international processes dealing with three key components of CITES, namely, the animal committee, the plants committee and the standing committee that will prepare for inputs into the Conference of Parties (COP). South Africa is active in this space. It is where one gets to know who stand where and what the issues are. In an initiative that is at an advanced stage, South Africa has a team which is coordinate by the scientific authority. Proposals have been called for and Dr Hughes has all the right to forward his proposals too. The proposals have been consolidated into various categories.     

The Chairperson asked whether SANBI is the scientific authority?

Mr Munzhedzi confirmed this, answering that there are a number of scientists coming from different provinces and also from other government entities. That team comes together, including the provincial authorities and the DEA, to analyse what came, categorise and then work on a particular report that they consider as a recommendation for the scientific authority. In the case of training, facts and proposals are presented to make a case to government to consider training. Further work needs to be done before that is processed internally and then processed though the Cabinet process. In COP 2016, there was no discussion around this. Fortunately, there was a push for training through the committee of inquiry. The reports that came through also dealt with the issues around demand management. The conclusion thereof, which was a Cabinet decision, did indicate that until such time that we can demonstrate significant improvement of these five areas that have been referred to on how the legislative tools are strengthened, how the population management processes are taken care of, how the demand management is being managed, and community empowerment is being taken care of, and also security and enforcement matters. Until such time that significant movement and progress is demonstrated, then this question, at the time, was not approved for taking further to CITES. They concluded the report and this question can now be dealt with and entertained here on what then would be the next step for government to take to CITES. Through biodiversity diplomacy interactions with others, there are so many other species that are involved and processes and changes in many other things that need to be dealt with. The details of what will come through may be available in time when there are other species for which the scientific authority would have sent its recommendations for. They are compiling a report that will be submitted to the DEA any moment.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee could only receive the report once it has been processed and been through Cabinet?

Mr Munzhedzi said there will be a better picture after interrogating the report of the scientific authority. The Department must interrogate what is coming in as recommendations backed by science and facts.

The Chairperson said, apart from the various other issues, the issue of rhino ought not to be underplayed. It must be a number 1 priority.

Mr Munzhedzi said there are pronouncements in this regard that are coming in as recommendations. Furthermore, the DEA has been working with Namibia for years and they have always been its ally. There may be some different interpretations on ‘sustainable use’ defined, there a lot that is owned in Namibia by the government compared to what is owned by private sector in South Africa. There are certain dynamics that there is mutual respect concerning. There are areas where the DEA needs to clarify itself on certain species and approaches. In the negotiations at CITES, in dealing with the issues of common interest, South Africa and Namibia (including, among others, Zimbabwe) were operating from the same operating book. On trophy hunting, South Africa does subscribe to this. When it comes to black rhino, there is usually a maximum quota of five. Trophy hunting is one of the conservation activities in South Africa. It is one area that South Africa always tries to protect to an extent the investments are made to dealing with concerns raised by countries, for example, when South Africa went to Brussels. The industry always complains that there is over regulation but the DEA does not want to find itself in a situation where there are loopholes. DEA is tested on the basis of its systems and legislation. Either way, the industry will say it is being taken too far. Even with the trade of rhino horn, it is being argued that legislation is too tight. However, there are implications and challenges when legislation is too lenient.           

Mr Mketeni commented that, on the sharing of information, there is a structure called the Intelligence Co-ordination Committee (ICC). While it is a platform where departments listen to each other, nothing tangible ever comes from it because dealing with this issue requires proper intelligence. For SANParks and other entities, once a poacher leaves the reserve, nothing can be done. Therefore, this area requires the collaboration between many departments as a sector. It needs Homes Affairs, Correctional Services, Social Development, and the Police to focus on the outside. Operation Fiela ran for about a year by SARS to clean up the villages and to sweep the poachers from outside to that they do not come inside. As long as there is the production of poachers, it will never stop. SANParks has to go beyond briefing Parliament to make sure that repeat offenders must be found. There must be an intervention to prevent repeat offending. Moreover, the ranger killed is not a ranger of SANParks but an official from the provincial arm of SANParks (Limpopo) doing animal control.
In terms of trafficking, what puzzles SANParks is that there are so many kingpins that are floating around who get arrested today and tomorrow they are gone. He will pay R100 000 and he is back in the village. It is like an economy on its own. People see that the poachers are leading a better life and the community know these poachers but are not prepared to talk. Enforcement on its own is not a solution. More is needed than this.       

Ms Craigie stated that it is not about whether information is being shared. In the meetings, there is a lot of information being shared, including on repeat offenders. The question is what is done with the information. The major problem is capacity. There are not enough members of the Hawks and law enforcement dealing with these issues. There are multiple syndicates and when one person is taken out, there are people to replace them. A certain amount of law enforcement members is required to deal with it. The Hawks hoped that with the adoption of NISCWT by Cabinet would give them capacity to deal with the issue. This has not been the case. Therefore, DEA has to develop some capability.
In relation to the sentencing, where convictions are made, especially the Skukuza Court, there are good sentences in terms of the numbers and years of imprisonment. A problem is what is happening with bail applications. The poachers and the other member of the syndicate are getting out on bail very easily despite that fact that so much is presented in terms of aggravation before the magistrate hoping that they will not get out on bail. Yet, they are still getting bail and are continuing what they have done before. A request from the NPA, a research project will be initiated around all the rhino cases and to look at the cases where there has been success or not, and where are they. DEA is sitting down with, among others, the Hawks and the NPA to work out this research project on all the rhino prosecutions and cases that have come before. Furthermore, the statistics do include rhino poaching on private property.
Lastly, the trafficking strategy was developed in response to the committee of inquiry. One of the findings of this Committee was the need to come up with an enforcement strategy that works. If this strategy is approved, it might unlock some resources to put more people on this issue.

Mr Jooste added that the DEA drowns in information. There is a lack of capacity to convert information into actionable intelligence and then evidence. While the DEA works in communities to find a long-term solution, the only solution is to be more proactive. A strategic factor, this can only be accomplished with surveillance equipment and criminal intelligence.

Ms Masela added that the reality that apart from lacking analysis capacity, the DEA also respects the fact that the focus may not be on this in time to come. Moreover, Namibia has not had a big rhino population, however, it has grown in the recent past. The DEA also noted some poaching activity. South Africa has good relations with Namibia on the TFCA. Discussions are taking place on this platform to identify gaps, including with other frontline states. When the DEA has something, it will return and present on it.  

The Chairperson reiterated that a follow-up will be scheduled on the preparation for CITES on what needs to be done to be ready for the relook into the listing around this issue. In this engagement, what needs to be discussed is how we understand the market of the rhino horn, what is pushing this market, what are the dynamics and how to respond to this. The market will always exist, whether it is legal or illegal. This will be discussed when DEA returns. 


Report back briefing by the Department of Environmental Affairs on the Marion Island Research Expedition and related challenges
Ms Judy Beaumont, Deputy-Director General (Oceans and Coast): DEA, introduced the speakers. The research locations are the Southern Ocean, the Marion and the Gough Islands.

Research on Marion Island
Mr Ashley Naidoo, Chief Directorate (Oceans and Coastal Research): DEA, spoke to the research on Marion Island, which includes weather observations, monitoring of seabirds, marine mammals, marine top predators, botany, space weather, geomorphology, fur seals, engineering, and the production of more than 1000 Published Scientific Papers (2010) and more than 200 Post Graduate degrees.

Ms Naidoo unpacked the value of DEA’s research on and monitoring of seabirds at South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands.

The key purposes of research is to
1. Assess conservation status and advise conservation interventions,
 2. Monitor ecosystem change and health,
 3. Contribute to ecosystem-based management,
4. Understand movements of highly-migratory, trans-boundary species and resultant threats,
 5. Contribute to international agreements to which South Africa is a party.

Logistical challenges experienced 2017/18
Mr Nish Devanunthan, Director: South African National Antarctic Programme, outlined the logistical challenges experienced in 2017/18, these included generator problems and the challenges related to engine oil leakages, domestic hot water geyser and food item shortages.

Mr Devanunthan also explained the circumstances surrounding the medical evacuation and return from Marion on May 2018.

Steps taken to address concerns raised
Subsequently, Mr Devanunthan teased out the steps taken to address concerns raised.
He also spoke to efforts to address issues raised by the Committee. These include issues around the leadership model, dispute resolution, the code of conduct, wellness, the screening protocol, salary scales, food management system, and alcohol.   

Discussion
The Chairperson stressed that the presentation did not meet expectations. The report was pathetic. The presentation did not give an adequate background to the expedition or the presentation. 

Mr Hadebe, echoing the Chairperson, reiterated that there were specific issues that had to be addressed in the presentation. First, there was an issue about fight. Second, there was a question of how conflicts are dealt with out there and what processes are available for employees or those who are under investigation to raise questions. The issues that were raised in the presentation deviated from what was expected. When SANAP comes again they can come with exact responses.

Ms J Steenkamp (DA) asked whether any research was being done as to what kinds of plastic and also the impact that it has on the island itself?

Mr Purdon highlighted an issue that stood out about the generator problems. What is the cost of an emergency voyage? Three brand new engines could have been bought. It is mind-boggling that an engine was not ready at the time of departure. Can this please be explained?

Mr Makhubele commented that the issues that area being reported on indeed might have emanated from earlier interactions with SANAP. They were more related factors, however. They were not the main issues. In the process of new reporting the Committee then asked related questions. Now that SANAP is coming after some time, part of what is expected is an update whether between then and now the situation is fine. Does it mean that when these logistical issues are addressed there is no longer fighting? The issue is the fight that ensued and it was not managed and people nearly killed each other. Has this situation been arrested, or are there still challenges and now there are mechanisms to manage it? It is only natural for there to be such challenges. The issue is, given the context of them being out there for a year, are relations being managed? Is the team able to proceed and do the research that is needed to fulfil the mission without these challenges? Are there proper mechanisms to address issues (e.g. leadership) that emerge? Are these structures able to deal with that? How are these issues managed for people to stay there for a year without these relations and minor challenges?   

The Chairperson allowed preliminary responses. It starts with respecting the institution called Parliament. When the DEA is asked to report and account on something a proper report must be prepared. In this case, Parliament is not being respected as an institution.

Mr Makhubele reiterated that if the report was to be complete, the Committee needed to be updated on the major issues that were the cause of its intension initially. The DEA needed to tell the Committee whether the situation is working and that the people are fine.

Mr Hadebe echoed Mr Makhubele that the Committee needed to know what has happened so far and what proactive steps have been taken to avoid this situation.

The Chairperson asked for a follow-up as the report is not worth looking at. The Committee wants a full account of what happened and to be taken through what remedies are being put in place to ensure that it does not happen again. Moreover, an update is needed on the research work on the Marion Islands, which can be expanded to Antarctica.

Ms Judy Beaumont, asked whether it would be useful to do an overview of the infrastructure and the science programme in each of the three places, Marion Island, Antarctica and the Gough Islands? The understanding was that the DEA was responding to the issues which were a challenge for this particular expedition. The Department would welcome the opportunity to present to the Committee in particular the infrastructure of Antarctica which is cutting edge.

The Chairperson asked the DEA to include this in the presentation. The Committee, however, does not take kindly to this type of presentation and the team must shake up.

The meeting was adjourned.  

Share this page: