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