SANParks official speaks out on rhino ‘sale’

2014-08-31 13:00

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Johannesburg - Confusion around the SANParks sale and removal of 260 rhinos has deepened after the man accused of making an unauthorised decision to sell the Kruger Park animals has spoken out in his defence.

According to the Sunday Times, Dr Hector Magome was suspended as SANParks’ head of conservation in June after allegedly arranging to sell 260 rhinos without permission.

Magome spoke out however, after SANParks board member Gert Dry said last week that “... in a number of media ... articles, it is incorrectly stated that SANParks has sold 260 rhinos to private land owners in the Northern Cape”.

Magome said that this remark has forced him to defend his integrity.

“In this sad saga, rhinos and South Africa are the only losers. The 500 rhinos that could have been removed this year remain trapped in the Kruger in a raging war of bullets,” he said.

Following months of speculation regarding the sale and removal of hundreds of Kruger rhinos, Dry says no sales were authorised.

However Northern Cape game farmer Wiaan van der Linde and retail tycoon Christo Wiese, allegedly paid a R16m deposit eight months ago to buy 240 rhinos collectively. Van der Linde said his contract for rhinos was worth R40m and that SANParks had assessed his farm and issued transport permits for the animals. Last week however, he received notification that his contract was “null and void”, he said.

Moving rhino

Magome, who was involved in the deal, says he acted with full authority at the time. He says he has been involved in numerous sales of rhinos over the years and at no stage has the board objected. Now suddenly he is “the bad guy”, he says.

Meanwhile, last week, Sapa reported that rhino at the Kruger National Park will not be moved to safety this year.

"We have missed the window to remove the animals because it is now getting warmer. The best time to move them is in winter," spokesperson Isaac Phaahla from SANParks told Sapa.

He said a project plan had been developed but it was still with the board of SanParks, waiting approval.
"Once approved, the plan will be implemented," he said.

Phaahla said the rationale behind the move was to grow the number of the animals while at the same time preserving their safety.

He said a lot of work would go into investigating the places where the animals would be kept.

"The animals will only be moved to an area where they will be properly looked after and protected from poachers. They will only be moved to areas where there is expertise for their well-being," he said.

"The move will probably happen next year."

Security risks

On 12 August , Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa announced that rhino along the eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park would be moved to strongholds both inside and outside the flagship reserve to protect them from poachers.

She said her department was also looking at moving some rhino out of the country.

"Part of the translocation will include the Southern African Development Community, the SADC area in particular... We have already started discussions with Botswana, we are working with Zambia, we are working with other countries, but more intensely those two in particular," she said at the time.

A week later, Molewa announced that SA National Parks (SANParks) has made over R80m following the sale of 354 rhino since 2010.

Replying in writing to a parliamentary question, Molewa said she could not reveal who the rhino were sold to due to "exposure and security risks", but said the money from the sales would be pumped into various conservation projects.

"SANParks accumulates all income from the sale of animals in a special fund called the Park Development Fund," she said.

"This fund is used by SANParks for numerous conservation-related projects, including acquisition of land for inclusion into national parks, research projects in the biophysical and social sciences relevant to national parks, scientific reports, and community beneficiation projects."

Read more on:    sanparks  |  rhino poaching  |  poaching
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