6 November 2012

South Africa: Minister Edna Molewa Urges the Court to Act Firmly On Rhino Poaching Syndicates

Photo: photo: Elles van Gelder
Rhino poaching is on rise in Africa. (File Photo)

press release

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa today called for a stricter sentence to be imposed on suspected rhino poaching kingpin, Thai national Mr Chumlong Lemtongthai, who yesterday pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining hunting permits that led to the illegal exportation of nearly 26 rhino horns.

The Kempton Park Magistrate Court is expected to sentence the suspected poaching kingpin, who was found guilty of breaching the Customs and Excise Act and the National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act, tomorrow. Minister Molewa lauded the sterling work done by the country's law enforcement agencies and the South African Revenue Services in fighting poaching. A total of 222 people have been arrested for rhino poaching and related activities since the beginning of 2012.

South Africa has lost a total of 528 rhinos to poachers since the beginning of 2012, the Kruger National Park remains the hardest hit, having lost a total of 320 rhino since the beginning of this year. SANParks is also working closely with Denel as part of government's collaborative efforts to combat the poaching scourge on a number of fronts.

In April this year the Department of Environmental Affairs implemented revised norms and standards for the marking of rhinoceros horn, and for the hunting of rhinoceros for trophy purposes. This saw the introduction of stricter controls for the granting of trophy hunting permits in South Africa and illustrated the serious light in which the department views the possible abuse of the permit system.

The new norms and standards clearly stipulate that hunting applicants must, amongst others, submit proof of membership to a recognized hunting association, may only hunt one white rhinoceros within a twelve month period and the hunt must be accompanied by an environmental management inspector or an official of the issuing authority. The official accompanying the hunt must also take DNA samples of the rhino horn and fit it with a micro-chip.

These controls were put in place to prevent the issuing of fraudulent hunting permits. It should be noted that should there be a clear abuse or absolute collapse in any of these controls or of provincial permitting systems, then the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs reserves the right to institute a moratorium on hunting of rhinoceros. The Minister would also like to reiterate that individuals found guilty of abusing the hunting permit system will be dealt with in a serious manner.

Members of the public are urged to report incidents of rhino poaching or any tip-offs that could lead to arrests and prevention of illegal killings to 0800 205 005.

Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs

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