Update on rhino poaching and Operation Skhumba focuses on taxidermy and tannery industry

22 August 2012


As part of government’s ongoing initiatives in the fight against rhino poaching, a National Enforcement Blitz was conducted by the Green Scorpions. The Blitz, titled Operation Skhumba, was conducted jointly by officials from the national Department of Environmental Affairs as well as provincial Environment Departments. It occurred during the week of 14 August and focused on the Tannery and Taxidermy industries in the Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and Western Cape provinces. Approximately 28 facilities were inspected during the Operation.

The blitz was executed by the Green Scorpions amidst an increase in the number of rhinos poached in South Africa, with the figure since the beginning of this year now standing at 339 and a total of 192 individuals arrested in connection with rhino poaching.

The Kruger National Park has lost a total of 201 rhinos to illegal killings in 2012.

The Green Scorpions conducted inspections looking at compliance with the legal requirements related to waste, pollution and biodiversity issues. Under biodiversity issues, the two main aims were to check compliance with regard to the Threatened Or Protected Species Regulations (TOPS) as well as compliance with the amended Norms and Standards on the marking of rhinoceros and rhinoceros horn and for the hunting of rhinoceros for trophy hunting purposes under the National Environmental Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004, as published in Government Notice no. 304 on the 10th of April 2012.

This is in line with the Department’s plan to ensure ongoing industry compliance in an effort to curb the number of environmental crimes, including rhino poaching.

The amended norms and standards are intended to strengthen the regulatory framework in terms of monitoring the legality of hunts and control over rhino horns. Stricter provisions relating to hunting were required to ensure that processes are standardized and to reduce possible abuse of the system. According to the amended norms and standards, rhino horns from trophy hunts are expected to be transported by a duly authorised person from the address where a hunt took place directly to a taxidermist for processing and exportation. The transportation of horns may only be authorised in terms of an individual permit granted by the issuing authority (it may not be authorised in terms of a standing permit or in combination with the hunting permit).

The permit authorising the hunt and a copy of the professional hunting register must accompany all rhino products when being transported between destinations. Also, by law, when taxidermies receive rhino horns, these needs to be reported to the respective provincial conservation authorities. Taxidermies are in addition, required to keep a register detailing the date of receipt of the rhino horns, their weight, micro-chip numbers as well as the numbers of the hunting permit, transport permit and professional hunting register.

This register must be made available to the issuing authority for inspection upon request. Ensuring that these amended norms and standards are being adhered to, was also one of the focuses of the Operation.

Alongside taxidermies, Operation Skhumba also focused on some of the country’s tanneries. During 2011, criminal investigations were initiated against tanneries in the Eastern Cape for non-compliance with environmental legislation. So, through Operation Skhumba, the Green Scorpions aimed to also inspect tanneries in other (what do we mean by other regions) regions in order to ensure that such transgressions do not continue unabated.

While it was found during the Operation that some of the inspected facilities were adhering to the relevant environmental legislation, most were not in compliance. The most frequent transgressions uncovered related to poor waste management processes. A smaller number of the inspected facilities were also found not be in possession of the required licences, including air and waste licences. From a biodiversity perspective, the most frequent issues of non-compliance related to the absence of hunting registers and the absence of TOPS permits.

Investigations into the cases of non-compliance found by the Green Scorpions are currently underway. The findings on these will be released once all due processes are complete.

Members of the public are also urged to report any non-compliances that they are aware of to our Environmental crimes hotline on 0800 205 005.

Total number of rhinos killed this year:

SA 2010 2011 2012
KNP (SANParks) 146 252 201
MNP (SANParks) 0 6 3
GP 15 9 0
LIM 52 74 43
MP 17 31 16
NW 57 21 37
EC 4 11 3
FS 3 4 0
KZN 38 34 34
WC 0 6 2
NC 1 0 0
TOTAL 333 448 339


Total number of arrests this year:


South Africa - Arrests 2012 2011 2010
KNP (KNP) 42 82 67
MNP 0 0 0
Gauteng (GP) 22 16 10
Mpumalanga (MP) 56 73 16
Eastern Cape (EC) 0 2 7
Limpopo (LP) 34 34 36
North West (NW) 21 21 2
Free State (FS) 6 0 0
KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) 10 4 25
Western Cape (WC) 0 0 2
Northern Cape (NC) 1 0 0
Total 192 232 165


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