SA domestic trade in rhino horn allowed as DEA appeal dismissed

Cape Town - The lifting of a domestic moratorium on the trade of rhino horn has been upheld, despite a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) application against the ruling by the department of environmental affairs. 

The SCA on Friday, 20 May dismissed Minister Edna Molewa's application for leave to appeal with costs. No reasons were given for this order, says the department.

Molewa issued a statement noting the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in the matter between the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Johan Kruger (the First Applicant) and John Hume (The Second Applicant).

In January 2016, Traveller24 reported that the rhino horn trade moratorium was effectively "lifted on a technicality related to incorrect government procedures".

The department at the time, concerned that domestically-sold horn would leak out into the international market, had attempted to prevent the lifting but the court rejected the government's appeal against the judgement finding, while a ban may be prudent, the government had "failed to follow its own procedures for soliciting public comment".

Following the lifting of the ban, WidlAid raised concerns around the matter saying the moratorium needed to be reinstated immediately as there had been persistent reports that "prominent private rhino owners who contested the moratorium hope to attract east Asian citizens to South Africa to consume rhino horn in-country as a form of medical tourism."

Unfortunately, this is not the case, following the dismissal with the department yet to detail its next course of action.

This judgment does not relate to the international trade in rhino horn for commercial purposes, which is still prohibited in terms of the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Despite initial confusion on the DEA's stance on the matter - it confirmed in March that South Africa will not submit a proposal to legalise trade in rhino horn to the 17th Conference of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to be hosted in Johannesburg in September.

The recommendations were endorsed by the Inter-departmental Technical Advisory Committee and an Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed to investigate the possibility of legalising commercial international trade in rhino horn - who had decided against it.

Both the possession of rhino horn and the trade in rhino horn, including any derivatives or products thereof, is subject to prior authorization, says the DEA.

"A person who is found in possession of a rhino horn, or who sells a rhino horn within the borders of the Republic of South Africa, or who exports a rhino horn from the Republic without the relevant permits, is guilty of an offence and may, if convicted, be liable to a fine not exceeding R10 million, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or both such fine and imprisonment."

What to read next on Traveller24:

SA rejects trade in rhino horn legalisation

- Domestic trade in rhino horn could see 'medical' tourism spike in SA

- #ShockWildlifeTruths: Dwindling SA sharks in focus on World Oceans Day

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