Ezemvelo boss hits back at criticism

2012-10-12 00:00

THE CEO of Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, Dr Bandile Mkhize, said conservation stakeholders and interested parties should take an honest look at themselves before making “opportunistic and largely unsubstantiated allegations” against his organisation.

His comments come in the wake of ongoing criticism of Ezemvelo’s financial management and for its inability to stop rhino poaching in the province.

Mkhize called on non-government conservation organisations to “stop carping” and get behind his pioneering call to trade rhino horn on the open market, in a bid to lower its price and quell the poaching.

“This is going to be a long and bitter struggle, and I need all the support I can get,” he said.

Speaking of criticism emerging from the recent poaching of seven rhinos at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Mkhize said: “I’m dismayed by the poor insight that underwrites much of this criticism. It suggests a bias that, above all else, ignores the huge community and environmental responsibilities of modern-day conservation.”

He said it is “damning” to see people attacking Ezemvelo when South Africa’s rhino populations are being targeted by some of the most sophisticated and highly financed syndicates experienced in conservation history.

In 2011, KZN had the lowest annual poaching rate (0,9% of its rhino population) of all provinces.

Up to early last month, Ezemvelo had lost some 32 rhino throughout its nine rhino reserves from January this year.

“We have actually grown our total population of rhino by 81 from 2011 to 2012, so their natural growth rate is still keeping up with poaching pressure,” said Mkhize.

The preliminary field report on investigations into the recent poaching incident at Hluhluwe is now complete and the core findings will soon be made public, he said.

“First impressions show a small breach in the chain of command at Hluhluwe. Sadly, it only takes one or two people to be induced by these huge riches, or one area of neglect of supervision, and you suffer this dramatic consequence.”

Mkhize rejected calls for Ezemvelo to institute an independent investigation, saying this ignored the professionalism within the organisation.

“In this climate of overall mistrust and suspicion, who exactly qualifies to undertake such an investigation?” he asked.

Mkhize had decided that Ezemvelo’s internal investigation would be scrutinised by independent conservation specialists. “We are hiding absolutely nothing and whatever action needs to be taken, will be,” he said.

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