Durban - SA National Parks has sold 354 rhinos for a total price of just over R81 million - an average of under R230 000 each - since January 2010, while another six have been given free to unnamed recipients.
This was revealed by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa this week in response to parliamentary questions by DA spokeswoman on environmental affairs Terri Stander.
According to various reports, rhino horns have been sold by poachers on the black market for as much as R1.5m; for $300 000 (R3.2m); and about $65 000/kg.
Earlier this week, Roderick Potter, a member of the Rhino and Elephant Specialist Group that has had oversight responsibility for the animals in South Africa and east Africa, gave a police statement filed in a Durban court case against two alleged poachers.
He said the cost of replacing a white rhino was about R249 000 – the average cost of the species at the KZN wildlife auction last year.
Black rhinos fetched higher prices, up to double this amount, he was quoted as saying in the Daily News, sister newspaper to the Cape Argus.
“Undercover operations, in my experience, have revealed that a low expected price of rhino horn on the black market is R45 000/kg and there is no open market for rhino horn. High expected prices could be double this amount to a poacher.”
According to conservation group Ifaw (International Fund for Animal Welfare), reliable data is scarce, but credible sources suggest rhino horn prices in the early 1990s ranged between $250/kg and $800/kg but have now rocketed, with prices of $60 000/kg to $70 000/kg being reported.
In her reply, Molewa said no rhinos had been culled by SANParks and she was not aware of any government officials linked to those who had successfully tendered to buy the animals. The buyers’ names could not be revealed “due to exposure and security risks”.
Before 2012, tenders for the sale of rhinos had been advertised in various newspapers, but this practice had been stopped for security reasons.
“Therefore, the recent sale of rhino was not publicised.”
SANParks accumulated all income from the sale of animals into a dedicated Park Development Fund, Molewa said.
“This fund is used by SANParks for numerous conservation-related projects including the acquisition of land for inclusion into national parks; research projects relevant to national parks; scientific reports; and community beneficiation projects.”
Stander has announced that she also intends submitting questions to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko about “hot pursuit” operations against rhino poachers fleeing into neighbouring Mozambique
Such operations were confirmed by national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega during Molewa’s major press conference on poaching last week, with Phiyega saying these raids happened regularly.
Stander said it was “strange” that Phiyega had declined to give details of how many operations had taken place, and that the commissioner had not given any indication of whether the operations had been effective.
“According to reports received by the DA from sources within the police services and the Kruger National Park, to date no hot pursuit operations have taken place because the necessary agreement between South Africa and Mozambique is yet to be finalised.
“There is also concern that in the absence of an extradition treaty, any apprehended suspects will not be able to be brought back to South Africa for prosecution.”
Stander said she intended to ask Nhleko about the nature of any “hot pursuit” agreement with Mozambique and how many there had been since April.