Project drummed up Dutch millions

Date: 25 Aug 2014
A PROJECT involving poisoning horns to protect rhinos appears to have been used to get millions from a Dutch lottery – then dumped when the money was given to South Africa. The Dutch and Swedish post code lotteries gave more than R200 million to the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) in an effort to stop rhino poaching. The Star has discovered that much of the proposals the PPF, in conjunction with SANParks and the Department of Environment Affairs, made to the Dutch lottery board to get the money was based on the Rhino Rescue Project (RRP) horn devaluation method. Just before and subsequent to getting the money, the project was excluded from proposals. The RRP has been working for years on a method where toxins and dye are infused into rhino horn, in an attempt to destroy the trade in horns as the contaminated product would not be fit for human consumption. Only seven of the 276 rhino treated by RRP with the method in the past four years have died. And while the foundation said the treatment for rhinos helped reduce poaching, they found the approach flawed and would now do their own research of horn devaluation methods. Differing versions of a proposal to the Dutch lottery are in existence. The first, which appears to have been created in October last year, goes in depth into the RRP, setting out how the money would be used to carry out thousands of horn devaluations. Letters to the lottery do the same thing. Those made last year, asking for the money, speak specifically about the RRP, while new letters from this year indicate they would prefer to use a different technique. Head of communications at the lottery Martijn van Klaveren said they were aware that the Rhino Rescue Project was no longer working on the project, that it was stipulated in conversations and in the final fund proposal. A newer version of the proposal, which appears to have been created this year, leaves out the RRP. The donation was announced in Amsterdam at the Good Money Gala. Videos of it are still available on the Dutch post code lottery website, where it is clear the donation was made on the basis of the RRP’s rhino horn devaluation treatment. A promotional video done during the pilot in Ezemvelo, featuring Rhino Rescue Project’s Lorinda Hern and Dr Charles van Niekerk, is also on the website. Van Klaveren said the rhino horn devaluation was singled out by the media and the prime minister because of the revolutionary part of the rhino protection programme. “However, in all its communication the post code lottery has emphasised that the Dream Fund is supporting a multipronged programme.” He said it was decided late last year that more research was needed into horn devaluation. The foundation said they did not stop working with the Rhino Rescue Project after the cheque handover, “but prior to that their method proved to be flawed”. It said the relationship was terminated in November last year and provided copies of an e-mail on the withdrawal of a partnership. However, The Star has seen a foundation e-mail asking RRF in December to take part in a demonstration for the Dutch post code lottery. The foundation said ties were broken because research to find a viable method was needed. It said R67.2m had been earmarked for rhino horn devaluation/asset management and research, “none for infusion with toxic chemicals”. It said the rest of the funding was being used for different projects including intelligence operations, infrastructure, communications, equipment, technology, demand reduction campaigns and training. Hern said it was gratifying the horn devaluation treatment they pioneered was receiving international attention. By Angelique Serrao - The Star 25/08/14 Early Edition