#ShockWildlifeTruths: DEA cancels pressing rhino poaching stats brief amid controversy
Cape Town - The release of SA's rhino poaching statistics, which was scheduled to be addressed by the Department of Environmental Affairs on Friday, 17 February, has been cancelled last minute despite conservationists calling out the SA government on being tight-lipped about the national poaching crisis.
According to the DEA's website, a new date for the announcement will be communicated "soon".
However, conservationists and the general public remain in the dark about the status of our endangered rhino populations.
DEA vague about serious environmental concerns
The DEA's initial announcement to release the rhino poaching stats came in response to concerns about the lack of official, governmental communication about rhino poaching stats.
In a paper published by Conservation Action Trust on Traveller24, conservation writer Adam Cruise accused DEA Minister Edna Molewa of being tight-lipped about rhino poaching stats amid claims of rhino horn trafficking within her own government.
"Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, who runs the country’s intelligence services, was implicated in trafficking rhino horn late last year," Cruise said, highlighting that the DEA had not published rhino poaching statistics since September 2016.
By then, 702 rhino had been poached nationally.
Following on from the paper by Conservation Action Trust, the DEA published a statement saying it has noted concerns expressed by members of the public regarding the release of the latest rhino poaching statistics, and is "currently liaising with these various departments to secure a mutually satisfactory date for a next briefing - the date and venue of which will be announced in due course."
An official response on the pressing matter is still pending.
'Vague' rhino horn trade draft regulations questioned
In the meantime, the Department has opened another can of worms asking for public comment on new draft amendments on the trade of rhino horn, issuing a vague proposal that has caused more serious concern among conservationists.
The Draft Regulations state that "domestic trade in Rhinoceros Horn, or a part, product or derivative of Rhinoceros Horn in terms of Chapter 7 of the Biodiversity Act, would be legally exported on the basis that a person from another country who visits South Africa is allowed to export no more than two horns for personal purposes.
“An application relating to the selling or otherwise trading in, giving, donating, buying, receiving, accepting as a gift or donation, or in any way disposing or acquiring, of rhinoceros horn, must be referred by the relevant issuing authority to the Department for recording of the information on the national database," the draft amendments read.
While the amendment outlines the process to be followed when applying to carry out restricted activities involving rhino horn, as a person may not sell or otherwise trade in a rhinoceros horn unless a permit has been issued, they are criticized as being too vague the specifics related to the buyer.
Outraged SA Citizens Against Rhino Poaching says the department has done a shock 180º turnaround.
According to Allison Thomson of Outraged SA Citizens Against Rhino Poaching, the organisation has "spent two years fighting to justify the moratorium. Rhinos are not the only problem, we’ve seen a 300% increase in elephant poaching. We should be looking at solving this problem of organised crime."
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