The Ezemvelo wildlife agency may reduce the number of rhino hunting permits issued in KwaZulu-Natal because of the surge in rhino poaching.

On Thursday it said that the number of hunting permits issued was based on a number of factors, including the sustainable use of wildlife and the need to remove surplus animals from parks with finite boundaries and suitable ecological habitat.

Responding to questions from The Mercury on whether the number of hunting permits should be reduced as a result of the unprecedented levels of poaching by criminal syndicates, Ezemvelo chief executive Bandile Mkhize said his organisation was paying “special attention” to the impact of poaching on the number of hunting permits and the annual auction of live rhinos.

Hypothetically, if the organisation made a decision to remove 10 animals the following year and five animals were then poached, the original target of 10 would be reduced correspondingly to five.

Management strategies for rhino in KZN were being revised, but he did not provide figures on revisions to hunting quotas.

Asked what the organisation was doing to control the number of bogus “trophy-hunts” by nationals from the Far East, Mkhize said Ezem-velo could not discriminate against hunters based on their nationality. However, the organisation had put other systems in place to curb bogus trophy hunts.

Each rhino hunt had to be in the presence of a conservation officer. Prospective hunters were also required to submit a CV on their hunting experience.

Conservation officers now collect genetic samples and place a microchip in the horn, which was also measured and photographed so that its origin could be traced.

As a result of increased diligence, there had been only one hunting application for the current year by a Vietnamese national and two from Chinese nationals. - The Mercury