SA to focus on rhino conservation at CITES meeting

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pretoria - South Africa will use the upcoming 16th Conference of Parties of the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Thailand to shine the spotlight on rhino conservation.

South Africa will host and participate in side events during the 16th CoP, and three of these events will focus on rhino matters including conservation, safety and security and rhino economics or trade matters.

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa on Thursday said this was reflective of the key areas addressed during the national consultation process or Rhino Issues Management (RIM) process, which took place last year.

South Africa appointed a Rhino Issue Manager in May 2012, with the responsibility of conducting research and convening a series of stakeholder dialogues with all interested parties to facilitate wide-ranging and expert input into policy thinking.

In the course of the work of the RIM, a total of 12 stakeholder meetings were held in Gauteng, Durban and Cape Town, with presentations being conducted in Bloemfontein and Cape Town.

The CITES parties meet every three years to consider amendments to the appendices of the convention; to make recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the convention; and to assess the implementation thereof. 

More than 70 proposals to amend the appendices will be considered at the 16th CoP and more than 70 working documents relating to strategic matters, implementation and enforcement matters will be discussed.

“South Africa’s position will be informed by, and based on, sustainable use principles with the long term conservation of species as the overall objective.

“Proposals that will ensure responsible utilisation and conservation of the species concerned will be supported by South Africa,” said Molewa.

Important proposals to be considered by the CoP include listing certain shark species (Oceanic whitetip shark, Hammerhead sharks and Porbeagle shark) in the appendices of the convention.

The minister said a proposal by Kenya to place a zero export quota on the export of hunting trophies from South Africa and Swaziland will be opposed by both South Africa and Swaziland.

“A proposed amendment to the annotation of the African elephant listing to place restrictions on the submission of proposals to trade in ivory by African elephant range states [will also be considered].

“Since all these proposals will be subject to negotiations during the CoP, South Africa’s positions relating to these cannot be made available at this point in time,” Molewa said.  

She said she provided Cabinet with an overview of the four thematic areas that emerged during the RIM, which include funding, rhino conservation, safety and security, and commerce (trade). 

Molewa noted that the recommendation to develop and implement a funding model for the conservation of the South African rhino population was supported.

However, she said the establishment of a National Rhino Fund would be discussed by her department and National Treasury, with the focus on the mechanisms of establishing such a fund.

Molewa said this would be accompanied by a nationally coordinated fund raising strategy.

At the core of the challenges facing South Africa, in terms of rhinos, were the safety and security aspects.

The minister said the discussions to be initiated at CoP 16 would provide South Africa with more information relating to the views of CITES parties.

She said this included specific concerns that South Africa would have to address and information that would be required for parties to make a decision relating to the question of international rhino horn trade.

Based on this information, the minister said South Africa would be able to make informed decisions relating to the important matter and prepare appropriately.

Molewa said all efforts to protect the country’s rhino population were not just aimed at protecting a species from extinction, but also securing and conserving all South Africa’s natural resources.

“The fact that the criminal syndicates involved in rhino poaching also undertake other crimes means that this current situation can be considered a national security risk.

“It is therefore imperative that the national response be comprehensive as it threatens not only the sustainable development path of the country, but also the heritage of future generations,” she said. -