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A mystery KZN businessman has paid a whopping R960 000 for the right to hunt a white rhino in the Hluhluwe game reserve. This after park administrators Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife invited holders of hunting licences to bid to kill the rhino in a tender that was advertised online.
The hunt forms part of Ezemvelo’s population management programme and helps fund conservation efforts. The winning bidder, whose identity Ezemvelo would not reveal, is said to be an avid hunter.
“We cannot disclose the particulars of the outfitter that won the tender as this is an operational issue and could jeopardise his business. We can confirm that the outfitter is registered in KZN and is very reputable,” said Ezemvelo spokeswoman Waheeda Peters. “The animal sold for R960 150. The hunt date has not yet been booked.”
The male rhino has been pre-selected and will be hunted in a controlled environment in accordance with a “strict code of ethics”, according to officials. Around 80 rhinos a year are either resettled or hunted as part of Ezemvelo’s white rhino removal programme.
But the sanctioned hunt has angered anti-poaching campaigners.
“Why are they killing rhinos when they are already endangered? We are supposed to be fighting poaching. What kind of message are they sending out if we are shooting rhinos ourselves?” asked activist Simon Bloch of Outraged South African Citizens Against Poaching.
“They say that there is no space in the parks, how can that be? Are there no available grasslands anywhere? Even if the parks have reached their carrying capacity, why have they not considered transporting rhinos to other reserves where they’ve lost rhinos?”
Bloch said his organisation had asked Ezemvelo to postpone the awarding of the tender. A minimum bid amount of R750 000 had been set.
“We were prepared to raise the money to save the rhino. There were people out there who were willing to pay to save that rhino.”
Ezemvelo has said funds raised through hunts were used to assist with conservation. “The removal of a small number of individually identified rhino males actually enhances overall meta-population growth rates and furthers genetic conservation. As a spin-off, the hunting of such animals… helps provide much-needed additional funding to support effective conservation management programmes, as well as providing incentives for rhino-specific conservation,” said Ezemvelo CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize.
Poachers have killed a record number of rhinos in SA this year as their horns become one of the most valuable items on Earth. At least 443 animals died unnaturally, up from 333 in 2010, as street value of the horns soared to around R520 000 a kilogram, more expensive than gold, platinum or even cocaine.
Increasing affluence in Asia is thought to be pushing the price up. It follows a surge in the misguided belief among some in Asian countries that rhino horns can cure or prevent cancer.
“Nothing is more tragic than to see this unnecessary and brutal killing… and the horn in turn has zero medicinal value,” said Pelham Jones, of the SA Private Rhino Owners Association. - Masood Boomgaard