Rhino hunting norms welcomed

Recently gazetted norms and standards for white rhino hunting in South Africa have, in the main, been welcomed by the country’s hunting industry.

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These are aimed at protecting rhino from unscrupulous hunters and hunting outfitters, as well as from rhino horn smugglers. The laws were gazetted by the minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, in response to nearly 1 000 rhino being poached nationwide since January 2010. Additionally, so-called ‘pseudo’ rhino hunts have taken place where rhino horn syndicates have been hiring unskilled people to hunt rhinos witrh legal permits on the syndicates’ behalf with the intention of selling the horns.

The Professional Hunters’ Association of SA (PHASA) and the SA Hunters’ and Game Conservation Association (SAHGCA) said that they support many aspects of the new norms and standards. These include that DNA samples be taken of rhino and their horns, that rhino hunters provide verifiable proof that they are good-willed members of an official hunting organisation in their home countries, that hunters be allowed one rhino horn trophy per year, and that a rhino hunt must take place in the presence of an official from the hunting permit’s issuing authority.

PHASA president, Hans Vermaak, added: “But we’d like government to be aware that any moratoriums placed on white rhino hunting will be detrimental to the value of rhino. It is expensive for private owners to protect their rhino populations. They need to be allowed to have some hunted so that the income can be used to effectively protect the remaining animals.”

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SAHGCA’s manager for hunting and conservation, Dr Herman Els, said that the controlled selling of stockpiled rhino horn would severely undercut astronomical black-market prices, making rhino poaching far less economically attractive. SAHGCA cautioned that legislation should not dictate what a hunter could do with a legally and ethically hunted rhino horn. “If the norms and standards are too strict, it could have a negative effect as it could deter potential clients,” Els added.