SA backs down from proposing legal trade in rhino horn

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

Cape Town – South Africa has dumped its proposal to legalise the international trade in rhino horns, cabinet announced on Thursday.

Jeff Radebe, Minister for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, said cabinet approved the recommendations made by the Committee of Inquiry on the feasibility of trading in rhino horns as one of the options to preserve the country’s rhino population.

A record 1 300 rhinos were poached in 2015. "The number of African rhinos killed by poachers has increased for the sixth year in a row with at least 1 338 rhino killed by poachers across Africa in 2015," the International Union for Conservation of Nature said in March.

“The recommendations endorse South Africa’s integrated strategic management approach to resolving the poaching of rhino and illegal trade in rhino,” Radebe said.

“The committee recommends that the current mode of keeping the country’s stock levels be kept as opposed to the trading in rhino horns.

“The country’s strategic approach entails security; community empowerment; biological management; responsive legislative provisions that are effectively implemented and enforced; and demand management.”

The recommendations were endorsed by the Interdepartmental Technical Advisory Committee and the Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed to investigate the possibility of legalising commercial international trade in rhino horn, explained Radebe.

South Africa will host the 17th conference of the parties (COP 17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in September and October 2016.

At the conference, South Africa was aiming to propose legalising the international trade in rhino horn in a bid to control the escalating number of rhinos being poached for their horns.

In its Estimates of National Expenditure in February, Treasury said the proposal “aimed to reduce rhino poaching, as it promotes the legal selling of rhino horn”.

“If this were implemented, the sales could generate significant revenue to supplement conservation funding.”

China and Vietnam have driven up the demand for rhino horn, which has the same substance as human fingernails, keratin. They believe the power form of the horn holds medicinal properties and can cure cancer.

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