WWF backs govt decision to appeal rhino horn ruling

2015-11-27 13:06
A rhino that has since been killed by poachers at Zululand Rhino Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. (City Press)

A rhino that has since been killed by poachers at Zululand Rhino Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. (City Press)

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Pretoria - A high court ruling permitting domestic trade of rhino horn would encourage poaching, the World Wide Fund for Nature said on Friday.

The WWF said the decision meant it was now possible for individuals to buy rhino horn within South Africa. However, international trade in rhino horn remains prohibited under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

- Read more: Activists outraged over decision to lift ban on rhino horn trade

“This ruling is a blow to the government, which imposed the moratorium in February 2009 in response to a sharp rise in rhino poaching and concerns that the national trade was facilitating the illegal international trade in rhino horn,” said Dr Jo Shaw, Rhino Programme Manager for WWF South Africa.

“Lifting the domestic moratorium can only encourage poaching and illegal activity, especially as it is likely to be misconstrued as a lifting of the current international trade ban.

“Efforts should rather be focused on good regulation of existing private rhino horn stockpiles and increased capacity at ports of entry and exit to detect illegal wildlife products.”

A full bench of the High Court in Pretoria has overturned government's moratorium on rhino horn trading because there was not enough adequate public consultation.

Judges Francis Legodi, Vivian Tlhapi and Myron Dewrance granted an order to rhino breeders John Hume and Johan Krüger to set aside the moratorium, which came into effect early in 2009, because of "substantial non-compliance" with the consultative and participatory process by members of the public contemplated by the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act.

World’s largest rhino breeder

Hume is the largest rhino breeder in the world, but said he would have to dispose of his herd of 1 200 rhino if the open-ended moratorium remained in effect. The moratorium was put in place to back up an international ban on rhino horn trading until regulations on how to deal with rhino had been put in place.

Government announced soon after that it would be appealing the ruling. WWF wildlife trade policy analyst, Dr Colman O’Criodain, said it was hard to see any positive conservation benefits from the court ruling, “particularly at a time when rhino poaching figures are at record highs”.

“There is no domestic demand for rhino horn in South Africa, so it is inconceivable that anyone would buy it – unless they intend to sell it abroad illegally or they are speculating that international trade will be legalised. Reopening the national rhino horn trade will make it even harder for already overstretched law enforcement agents to tackle record rhino poaching,” he said.

Read more on:    wwf  |  pretoria  |  conservation  |  rhino poaching

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