Port checks failing poaching fight

2012-01-26 22:31
Cape Town - Port officials are not adequately checking wildlife shipments for illegal rhino horns, Parliament's environmental affairs committee heard on Thursday.

"All ports of entry are managed by home affairs, customs. Therefore we must assume, chair, that they are doing those things, the checking," environmental affairs deputy director general Fundisile Mketeni said.

"We want our own facility whereby we can say, we see your permit... we can open the consignment and close it. The department is collaborating with public works to secure a facility at OR Tambo International Airport and at a yet-to-be-identified seaport."

Mketeni said some officials wrongly accepted excuses or threats from travellers, meaning a consignment had left the country without proper inspection. Travellers often threatened to sue officials if they opened their boxes.

Committee chairperson Johnny de Lange said it was shocking that people were getting away with such acts.

"If that is true, I shudder to think what kind of port officials we have. If someone says, I'll sue you if you open this box, and you're the customs official who is supposed to check it and you don't do it... No wonder it's so easy to have so many rhino being killed because it's just going out of the country; there is no system in place."

De Lange said the system had flaws and should urgently be tightened.

Mketeni said the department was removing a loophole which people used by posing as hunters to get a permit and then taking a horn back home.

"Hunting of rhino by foreign clients, whose country of usual residence does not have adequate legislation to ensure that imported personal sport hunting trophies will remain in the possession of the hunter, should be stopped as soon as possible."

He said permits should not be issued to any country that could not control horns arriving from South Africa.

A total of 448 rhino were poached in 2011. In January this year, 28 rhino had been poached so far.

The department estimated that 398 rhino would be killed by the end of the year.

Most poaching arrests in 2011 took place at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg and the Kruger National Park, in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

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