So this is how South Africa values its rhinos?

A white rhino calf stands beside its grazing mother in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. © IFAW/J. HrusaWe have grown weary of South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa’s weak argument that South Africa, through its Constitution, aspires to protect rhinos through a philosophy of sustainable utilisation of natural resources.

Her “strategy” ignores a host of biological, ecological and ethical values, emphasizing only the economic value of rhinos, whether they be dead or alive.

The view that putting rhino horn back into the marketplace through legal means as part of a sustainable use approach, is also wholly counter-intuitive. There is nothing sustainable about the current rhino crisis.

What’s more, even in economic terms, their arguments fall flat. Economic models purported by South African resource economists and local businessmen have been thwarted, according to analysis in peer-reviewed publications. 

Learn more: Read IFAW’s report, Horn of Contention, about the economics of trade in endangered wildlife in general and on rhino horn in particular.

Then came the admission just last month that some of the rhinos would be relocated to private reserves. While on the surface it might seem like an honest and plausible approach to move rhinos from Kruger to places of “safety,” South African National Parks (SANParks) still has not addressed the controversy that it had signed contracts with hunting outfits in the Northern Cape Province for 260 rhinos. It is incomprehensible, unless of course you want to shoot a rhino.

Anyone watching from the outside must look at this and seriously question what is going on.

While there is no doubt that the South African Government and SANParks have put a huge amount of resources, both human and financial, into addressing the crisis on the ground (and they should be applauded for such), until they refocus their attention to tackling the criminal syndicates involved in the slaughter of South Africa’s rhinos, all else will be futile.

Make no mistake, this issue is heating up, and South Africa’s reputation is on the line. While it is all fine and well for some to suggest that South Africa should not bow to international pressure, the reality is that we are part of the global community and that is, ultimately, where the rubber hits the road.

Pressure is mounting both here at home as well as internationally. By rolling the dice, South Africa has a lot to lose.

Why take the chance?

--JB

Learn more about IFAW efforts to fight wildlife trafficking, visit our campaign page.

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