No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
High level clouds. Mild.
Last month Environmental
Affairs Minister Edna Molewa made two announcements relating to rhinos in South
news was that there had been a 10% decrease in the number of rhinos killed in
South Africa for their horn. This was largely due to a drop in killings in the
Kruger National Park and even though the killings in the rest of the country and poaching incidents overall increased, it was truly good news.
in the same month she also published draft regulations to legalise the sale of
rhino horn under certain conditions. I was totally gobsmacked.
While I was
in Parliament I served on the environmental portfolio committee so I am familiar
with the need for political compromises and balancing diverse demands – sadly even
when it comes to the environment. But this proposed change in the regulatory
framework around rhino horn is truly ludicrous and what is worse it is not new.
same arguments were put to us over and over years ago around elephant ivory. In
the end there were a couple of “fire sales” of stockpiled ivory and we saw what happened.
research was done – and no one can refute today that it resulted in more
elephants being poached and killed – despite the arguments from the pro-sell
advocates at the time that it would reduce the price and thus the demand for poached
we are again. Same arguments – except this time round it is about an animal
that is far more endangered than even elephants.
So what is
going on? The regulations came about largely as a result of pressure by some farmers,
who farm with rhinos on privately held land. They have stockpiles of rhino horn that they want to sell – as does the government.
horn is a very lucrative business. It is estimated that rhino horn can sell for
between $60 000 and $100 000 per kilogram. And with a horn weighing between one
and three kilograms – well, you do the math.
advocates for selling the horn argue that by selling it legally the price will
drop as will the demand for illegally obtained horn. They also say that the
money that will be made can be used to increase anti-poaching efforts. It is
also argued that the regulations are very limiting and that the sale will be
nutshell the regulations allow rhino horn and products to be sold and exported
if the necessary export and import permits are held and under certain
conditions. The main condition, strongly emphasised at the briefing to the
parliamentary committee, is that only two rhino horns per person would be
what was not made clear at the briefing, but is in the regulations, is that
this restriction only applies to foreign citizens who travel to South Africa.
South Africans or foreigners who own rhinos in South Africa can export an
unlimited number. Secondly, the regulations do not mention over what period of
time these numbers are applicable – so whether it is two per visit, two per
month or two per annum.
regulations also state that it can only be for personal use. Now one has to ask
why on earth would people want rhino horn for personal use? Even though rhino
horn really is only of use to the rhino since it is made out of keratin (the
same material as our nails), people in Asian countries use it
mainly for medicinal purposes. So are we really suggesting that people will sit
in their kitchens and every night file a little more of the horn to put in
people also want rhino horns as trophies, but I have yet to hear of anyone who is
interested in a horn as a trophy if they did not shoot the rhino themselves. “Personal
use” will almost always result in only one thing – the horn will be sold on to
underground commercial traders.
It is clear
that this part of the regulations is there purely to circumvent CITES which has
banned all forms of rhino horn sale since 1977. And while I am on CITES, it is
worthwhile noting that South Africa will go against the wishes of 100 other
countries who voted last year against the sale of rhino horn.
then about the argument that a regulated sale will reduce demand and thus
reduce the price and so make it less profitable for poachers? This is where we
have to learn from what happened with the limited sales of stockpiled ivory.
reputable studies and conservationists have shown that demand went up and
poaching increased during and after the sales. It is really economics 101 –
supply fuels demand. If people see others having it or using it – they want it
too. To argue that the sale of horn from a few farms and parks in South Africa will
be able to satisfy the enormous existing and increasing demand in Asia and thus
saturate the market is just ridiculous.
have no doubt that those with stockpiled rhino horn will want top dollar for it. Otherwise why bother? Now if they
agree to a fixed price of say R100 per kilogram, well then perhaps there might
be some validity in their argument. But of course they won’t and so, as we have
seen with the elephants, the prices won’t fall.
And even in
the very unlikely scenario that the prices do decrease, it will only mean that
the poachers will poach more. After all, it is not as if the poachers are going
to sit back and politely allow the rhino farmers to sell only their stockpiles.
the money from the sale does go toward poaching prevention (a lot of money from
the ivory sales did not end up in poaching prevention as was promised), but the
poaching increases as a result of the sale, it seems pretty much like a zero
way to curb rhino poaching (as we learnt from elephant poaching) is a sustained
campaign to ban all sales and consumption of rhino horn. After decades the
Chinese government has finally made the carving, buying and selling of ivory
illegal from the end of this year. We have to seek the same outcome for rhino
horn and not fuel the demand and confuse consumers with these kinds of sales.
people that will benefit from this sale of rhino horn are the rhino farmers,
the speculators/traders and possibly officials and politicians who might get
illegal kick backs. The one stakeholder that won’t is the rhinos.
So if you
are one of the thousands of people who have continued to give money to save the
rhinos – know that these regulations are really making a laughing stock of us
At the same
time as we have been spending our hard earned money to save the rhinos our
minister is willing to allow the sale of their horn – an action that will put
them right back into more danger than ever before.
- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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