‘Hunters are not like poachers’

2012-10-30 00:00

LEGAL hunting of rhino or any of the big five is highly regulated and should not be thought of as being on par with poaching, said Richards Bay professional hunter Bill Fourie, yesterday.

Owner of Bay Sports and Arms, the only firearm store in Richards Bay, Fourie said with over 40 000 registered hunters in South Africa, the industry needs to maintain high standards or fear losing its good standing.

With the increase in rhino poaching of late and a call by many conservation lobby groups for a moratorium on rhino hunting to be enforced, Fourie said hunters should not be put in the same classification as poachers.

“There is a long process before a legal hunt of one of the big five, including rhino, can go ahead. It starts with the booking through a hunting outfitter who organises the required permits and once the hunt takes place, the client is joined by a registered professional hunter. The correct firearm is used, which in the case of the game being a rhino, it may be a 375 Magnum. Poachers do not use the right firearms and instead of killing the animal, they wound it and it dies a painful death,” said Fourie.

He said the hunting industry directly impacts his business.

“Hunts are sold very quickly, sometimes in a matter of hours. What usually happens is a game farmer will post that they have animals to hunt, with the SA Hunters Association and then members book themselves a slot,” said Fourie.

He said the meat from any large beast hunted, such as rhino, elephant or hippo, is almost always given to local communities, with the hunter only taking back a trophy.

Big game hunters are allowed to kill a limited number of rhinos every year, with their horns exported as mounted trophies.

According to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), funds raised through rhino hunts are used for conservation.

In April this year, the organisation put out a tender online which invited holders of hunting licenses to bid to kill a rhino. It sold for R960 150.

According to media reports, the hunting industry is valued at about R6 billion. EKZNW was asked by The Witness how many rhino hunts have taken place this year and when the latest hunt was. No response was received at the time of going to press.

Last Friday, the fight against poaching saw three provincial conservation agencies join forces and launch a strategic partnership aimed at developing ideas to fight rhino poaching.

EKZNW, the Wildlands Conservation Trust and the African Conservation Trust (ACT) have formed a strategic partnership aimed at stopping rhino poaching in all of Ezemvelo protected areas.

EKZNW CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize said ACT and Wildlands have agreed to “actively help us develop our capacity and secure the resources which we need to effectively protect our rhino”.

Wildlands CEO Dr Andrew Venter said: “The rhino onslaught has taken us all by surprise. Poaching syndicates are unfortunately ruthless and willing to exploit any weakness. They are actively developing local criminal syndicates, corrupting individuals and abusing Ezemvelo’s goodwill. As such, we’re entering a new era of conservation. We need to continue nurturing and supporting community-based conservation approaches, whilst demonstrating an intolerance of lawlessness and criminal activity,” said Venter.

About 60 rhino have been poached in KZN this year.

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