Outcry as Ezemvelo permits rhino hunt

2012-01-04 00:00

ANIMAL rights groups were silent when 23 rhino hunting permits were issued to private game reserves last year and it was unfortunate that an outcry was only raised when a hunt stood to benefit a poor black community, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife CEO Bandile Mkhize said yesterday.

He was responding to the ongoing controversy over a permit granted to an unidentified KZN businessman to hunt a male white rhino in the Mkhasa community reserve (near Mkhuze) at a price of R960 000.

EKZNW said it would not benefit from the hunting tender at all and that proceeds would be used by the Mduku rural community (near Mkhuze) to improve the management of their Makhasa Community Reserve.

This 1 500-hectare reserve is stocked with game like buffalo, rhino, giraffe, zebra and kudu which had been introduced by EKZNW since 1994.

EKZNW spokesperson Waheeda Peters would not be drawn yesterday on the identity of the “hunter” or when the hunt was scheduled to take place, saying the organisation had to respect the client’s right to privacy.

The businessman responded to an online call by Ezemvelo for tenders to hunt the rhino shortly before Christmas, which sparked angry reaction from Simon Bloch of the Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching.

He was quoted as saying that the organisation was sending a wrong message to the world at a time when people in this country are outraged by the slaughter of rhinos by poachers.

EKZNW defended its actions and said the call for tender to hunt white rhino in the Mkhuze controlled hunting area was part of an annual white rhino removal programme, which Ezemvelo has used over the last 50 years when animals are in surplus.

EKZNW explained that an average of 80 “surplus” white rhinos were removed annually from state protected areas for ecological reasons to safeguard their habitat.

Some were translocated throughout the country or sold live and, in some instances, “hunted through strict codes of ethics”.

A rhino expert pointed out that, while hunting is abhorrent to many, legal rhino hunts have taken place since the 1960s, and that revenue that such hunts generate do contribute to conservation.

He added that enormous sums of money and resources were required to adequately fight the sophisticated rhino poaching war.

The question that should be asked is whether or not ongoing legal hunting of rhino (in conjuction with poaching) is sustainable in the long term, as well as the motives for any particular rhino hunt.

EKZNW said yesterday that 34 rhinos were poached in KZN in 2011 (27 in protected areas) compared to 39 the previous year.

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