CAPE TOWN, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Ministry of Tourism on Wednesday denied reports that Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa has justified rhino poaching.
"The Ministry of Tourism has noted with concern the fake news report purporting to reflect the views of the Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, on rhino poaching," spokesperson Mahlodi Muofhe said.
According to news emerging on social media, Xasa said on Monday that she was not against rhino poachers, but was against people who poach without a license.
"A rhino poacher must have a poaching license, to poach legally," Xasa reportedly said.
Xasa was quoted as saying that she does not have a problem with people making a little bit of extra cash on the side.
In reply to public questions about whether there is such a thing as a "poaching license", Xasa said: "Yes, I think there is. We know there are no jobs in South Africa. And we are not trying to block people from making a living. We are just against illegal poaching."
Her remarks has drawn grave concern from environmentalists.
"We state categorically that the Minister did not and could never have expressed any views remotely justifying the criminal and barbaric practice of rhino poaching," Muofhe said.
"The Minister condemns rhino poaching as she does all other forms of animal cruelty. Rhinos are an important part of our national and cultural heritage and must be protected for the benefit of current and future generations," the spokesperson said.
South Africa, home to more than 80 percent of the world's rhino population, bears the brunt of rhino poaching, having lost a total of 529 rhinos this year, official statistics show.