Hard on the heels of news about escalating rhino poaching and illegal hunting in South Africa comes almost unbelievable news that the Eastern Cape Parks Board, a provincial conservation agency, sold 5 white rhinos on its Dwesa Nature Reserve to Vietnamese “hunters” – to be hunted on the reserve. And they subsequently were. The ostensible reasons are that white rhino are not indigenous to the area and the parks board is under financial pressure.
Besides claims that the process of selling the rhino for hunting purposes was and is illegal as the correct procedures were not followed, one has to wonder how an agency that is charged with protecting and conserving species, species under siege on top of it, can consider selling them to hunters. And Vietnamese hunters at that. It is not hard to imagine that given the links between poachers and the Far Eastern markets for rhino horn, that this was a wonderful opportunity to “launder” poached horn. Recently too, members of the Vietnamese embassy were implicated in poaching and smuggling rhino horn by the excellent 50/50 conservation TV show. The hunting option was preferred to translocation, even to a neighbouring private reserve that made an offer.
Furthermore, it has always been anathema, as far as I know, to permit commercial hunting in any national park or provincial nature reserve. It is contrary to the ethos of conservation not to mention contrary to the legislation that governs protected areas, I would think.
With protectors like this, who needs poachers.