Minister Molewa refutes claims made by OSCAP on rhino exports to Vietnam

Minister of Environmental Affairs Dr Edna Molewa has noted with concern the misinformation being circulated to media by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Outraged Citizens Against Poaching (OSCAP) regarding the alleged export of rhino calves to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Minister Molewa further notes that OSCAP, together with the Species Survival Network have filed a Promotion of Access to Information (PAIA) request with the department around the alleged exports.

In line with the department’s commitment to transparency and accountability we will comply with the PAIA process and respond within the prescribed timeframe.

OSCAP is wrong on all the material facts in this matter.

Firstly, the Department of Environmental Affairs did not recommend the export of rhino calves to ‘a zoo in Vietnam’ as OSCAP falsely claims.

Secondly, the last export of live rhino to Vietnam recommended by the Department was in June this year, and none of the parties cited in OSCAP’s PAIA request were involved in that export.

Thirdly the permit application received from the Issuing Authority in the matter OSCAP cites in its PAIA request was reviewed and found to be incomplete. Therefore the Department neither supported nor recommended the application.

Fourthly, OSCAP’s claims that South Africa is exporting rhino to Vietnam in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are false.

To export live rhinoceros from South Africa, export permits are required in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004). Furthermore, there has to be engagement between the CITES Management Authorities of the exporting country and importing countries.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has held engagements with the CITES Management Authority of Vietnam before any rhino were exported to that country.

OSCAP’s attempts to give the impression that rhino export permits are issued without due diligence being followed should be rejected.

Rhino related export permits submitted by the private sector are managed by the relevant provincial conservation authority. The Department provides recommendations on such applications to the relevant provincial conservation authority.

The evaluation and approval process is based on the criteria approved by the Ministers and Members of Executive Council (MINMEC) responsible for Biodiversity Management.

The Annotation to the CITES Appendix II listing of South Africa’s population of white rhinoceros states that live rhinoceros can be exported to appropriate and acceptable destinations which CITES further defines as destinations where the Scientific Authority of the State of import is satisfied that the proposed recipient of a living specimen is suitably equipped to house and care for it.

The Department has not hesitated to turn down applications where we were not convinced of the suitability of the exports.

In the past three months the Department rejected two applications for approval to export rhino to the Vin Pearl Group’s Phu Quoc Island facility in Vietnam. This was after concerns were raised about the suitability of the facility and the number of rhino being exported for breeding purposes.

The Department of Environmental Affairs views its obligation to ensure our rhino are exported to appropriate and acceptable destinations extremely seriously.

We encourage OSCAP as well as any members of the public to report and provide documentary and other evidence to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) of any South African rhino being kept in sub-standard conditions abroad.

Source: Department of Environmental Affairs