The Committee of Inquiry was tasked with investigating the feasibility of a trade in rhino horn.
Minister of Environmental Affairs,
Members of the media,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with information relating to the comprehensive process undertaken by the Committee of Inquiry to deliver on the Terms of Reference provided by the Minister. The Committee was comprised of a cross-section of stakeholders from both the public and private sector; all leaders in their field that were selected for their extensive expertise in their areas of work. As the Chairperson of the Committee I would like to express my sincerest appreciation for the commitment and integrity with which the members conducted themselves in delivering on this important assignment. I would furthermore like to acknowledge the contributions made by individuals, stakeholders, NGOs and interest groups, who submitted inputs through the public participation process.
Minister and members of the media, I will focus on the process followed by the Committee to deliver on the Terms of Reference.
The Committee of Inquiry first assessed the current situation and the interventions implemented to date. Then, through a process of stakeholder consultation, scenario planning, development of information documents on a number of key issues, analysis of case studies and a decision-tree analysis process, the Committee identified five key areas that require interventions independently of any decision on whether to advocate trade legalisation or not:
- Community empowerment
- Biological management
- Responsive legislative provisions and effective implementation
- Demand management
The primary recommendation from the Committee was that Government should do everything possible to address the key issues contained above. These issues, if not addressed, could enable wildlife crime to grow, impede government’s ability to conserve rhino in its natural habitat, and limit opportunities to realise benefits associated with successful conservation.
Given the above as the starting point, the remaining issues that the Committee considered were the potential role of demand reduction and / or legal trade to address demand pressures AND how to finance rhino protection in South Africa.
Four options relating to trade in rhino horn vs alternative solutions were considered and evaluated using various rigorous analytical and scenario planning methodologies and these were included in the report for consideration by the inter-Departmental Technical Advisory Committee and the Inter-Ministerial Committee.
The Committee furthermore developed three possible trade models for consideration by Cabinet and also subjected these to a SWOT analysis. The Committee noted that the institutional design of any trade mechanism would ultimately depend on agreement being reached with potential international trade partners, and decisions on the role to be played by government and other role players in its management and control.
I would like to reflect on the number of studies commissioned by the Department of Environmental Affairs to inform the Committee of Inquiry’s discussions and to further inform the implementation of the recommendations emanating from its report.
The following six studies were initiated, five of which have been concluded:
- The status of white rhino on private and communal land in South Africa
- The status and management of black rhino in South Africa
- Illegal wildlife and wildlife product demand reduction: Lessons learnt, critical success factors and time frames
- Assessment of the socio-economic status of rural communities neighbouring protected areas; the impacts of rhino poaching; and opportunities for development of wildlife-based economies
- Review of the relationships between protected areas and neighbouring rural communities and the efficacy of community conservation projects implemented in selected areas in South Africa; and
- The impact of rhino poaching on Tourism.
Time does not allow for details, but the following are important facts to note:
- At the end of 2014, there were between 4,945 to 5,505 white rhino on private and communal land in South Africa.
- In response to the poaching pandemic, at least 39 and possibly 63 properties disinvested completely of white rhino during the survey period resulting in a loss of a minimum of 11.8% of white rhino habitat.
- No key population of white rhino experienced disinvestment.
- Security costs were reported to have doubled since 2010 with a national private white rhino security cost of approximately R40 million annually. In addition to this, the cost borne by private land owners for monitoring their white rhino populations is close to double this figure and estimated to be approximately R75 million annually; resulting in overall security and monitoring costs of R115 million annually.
- Overall reported numbers of black rhino in South Africa were 1 842 in 2014, compared to 1 877 in 2011. The land area available for black rhino in South Africa increased by 8.7% after 2011, to more than 3 million hectares.
- With regards to demand reduction; a general issue is raised regarding the lack of reliable and consistent information regarding reductions in consumption or trade that have been achieved within specified time frames. Where such data is provided, the evidence regarding the reductions that have been achieved, and over what time frames, is mixed. Moreover, it is difficult to assess the reliability and validity of claims that have been made regarding the effectiveness of such campaigns. Limited information is available regarding the methodologies used in such studies, e.g. regarding the questionnaires and monitoring mechanisms used to evaluate success. The importance of understanding the cultural context and the consumer profile was highlighted as critical. Overall there is a need for reliable information and verified data to guide demand reduction activities.
- The socio-economic impact study includes a set of recommendations that include among others the need for improved communication relating to the benefits of rhino conservation, increased visibility of community benefits from effective anti-poaching measures, the important role the biodiversity economy will play in providing opportunities to communities, and the importance to ensure the self-sustainability of community projects.
- The tourism study, funded by the GEF5 Rhino project, was aimed at understanding the direct and indirect consequences of rhino poaching in the context of tourism. Some of the conclusions include that tourists view rhino poaching as the most important challenge faced by parks and conservation organisations; rhino is second after lions as being the most preferred animal to view; and that anti-poaching measures have an influence on the tourist experience that will require especially pro-active communication interventions to ensure tourists understand the need for these measures.
As we acknowledged at the media briefing in February 2015, when the Committee was introduced, the challenges we face around rhino poaching are complex, but we trust that the work done by the Committee will make a positive contribution to rhino conservation in South Africa.