CityPress - - Voices - Albi Modise via email

The ar­ti­cle “R440m spent but rhi­nos still slaugh­tered” (City Press, June 28 2015) brought home the com­plex­i­ties of bat­tling or­gan­ised, transna­tional crim­i­nal syn­di­cates that con­tinue to slaugh­ter the coun­try’s rhi­nos. The depart­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs has con­sis­tently ac­knowl­edged many of the short­com­ings in our fight against these ac­tiv­i­ties.

How­ever, a num­ber of as­ser­tions and fac­tual in­ac­cu­ra­cies need to be chal­lenged. The rhino-poach­ing num­bers cited by the re­port are patently false.

Fig­ures for the first four months of 2015 in­di­cate that 393 rhi­nos were poached in the whole coun­try, of which 290 were poached in the Kruger Na­tional Park – and not “212 Kruger rhi­nos, plus an ad­di­tional 331 coun­try­wide”, as your jour­nal­ist claims.

The depart­ment pro­vides ac­cu­rate fig­ures dur­ing our reg­u­lar re­port on the in­te­grated strate­gic man­age­ment of rhi­noc­eros – the most re­cent be­ing in May 2015.

We stand by our data that were pro­vided by SANParks, and are not “Molewa’s fig­ures”.

The con­stant ref­er­ence to “Molewa’s fig­ures” is a ma­nip­u­la­tion of the facts.

It im­plies that the depart­ment has one set of fig­ures, and SANParks another. Sim­i­larly, many of the other sta­tis­tics in the ar­ti­cle bear no re­la­tion to re­al­ity.

We strongly dis­pute the crosshead “36 rhi­nos poached in one week­end” and urge City Press to pro­vide sup­port­ing ev­i­dence to back up this fig­ure, as well as its source.

SANParks, which is the source of sta­tis­tics on all rhi­nos poached on state land, has no record of the so­called par­tic­u­larly bloody week­end re­ferred to.

Else­where in the ar­ti­cle, a sim­i­larly spu­ri­ous ref­er­ence is again made to “Molewa’s fig­ures” on the num­ber of rhi­nos in the Kruger Na­tional Park.

At the May brief­ing, the min­is­ter pre­sented find­ings of the latest sur­vey con­ducted by SANParks in 2014 – re­port­ing an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of be­tween 8 001 to 9 290 white rhi­nos across the Kruger.

The depart­ment stands by the in­tegrity of SANParks’ data and its sci­en­tists, with re­gard to both the poach­ing sta­tis­tics and the method­ol­ogy used in the rhino cen­sus.

On the mat­ter of donor fund­ing, the ar­ti­cle fails to dis­tin­guish be­tween long-term and short-term in­ter­ven­tions.

Some funds have been ear­marked for ini­tia­tives at too early a stage for suc­cesses to be recorded, such as the pi­lot­ing of un­manned aerial-ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy and de­mand-re­duc­tion cam­paigns in end user coun­tries.

The foren­sic trail­ers pur­chased through the Global En­vi­ron­ment Fa­cil­ity were handed over to pro­vin­cial con­ser­va­tion author­i­ties last month. Global En­vi­ron­ment Fa­cil­ity fund­ing is also be­ing used for ad­vanced crime scene man­age­ment (be­gun this year) and mag­is­trates’ train­ing (later this year).

The depart­ment and its en­ti­ties, in­clud­ing SANParks and the Green Scor­pi­ons, are fully able to ac­count for funds re­ceived. We can­not, how­ever, be held to ac­count for fund­ing given to not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions and other en­ti­ties listed in the ar­ti­cle.

By your jour­nal­ist’s own ad­mis­sion, of the to­tal sum quoted in the head­line, about R27.5 mil­lion has been given to not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions and a fur­ther R21.3 mil­lion to “var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions”.

The in­crease in il­le­git­i­mate oper­a­tions col­lect­ing money al­legedly on be­half of the depart­ment and SANParks re­mains of con­cern.

The re­al­ity is that un­scrupu­lous op­er­a­tors ex­ist on the mar­gins, look­ing for ways to cash in on the lu­cra­tive donor fund­ing pour­ing into South Africa to fight rhino poach­ing.

Your jour­nal­ist’s over­all re­liance on anony­mous sources (al­legedly) in­side SANParks – dis­put­ing the fig­ures of their own or­gan­i­sa­tion – is ques­tion­able.

As part of this gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to trans­parency, the depart­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs will con­tinue to pro­vide ac­cu­rate and timely in­for­ma­tion on all as­pects of rhino man­age­ment to all mem­bers of the public, in­clud­ing the media.

We fur­ther urge jour­nal­ists to con­tact us for data, in­stead of re­ly­ing on half-baked in­for­ma­tion from anony­mous sources.

Modise is spokesper­son for the depart­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs

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