South African government discusses legalization of trade in rhino horn

Devastating photos and videos of suffering rhinos who are victims of illegal poaching aren’t new to us. Poaching levels have been alarming all over Africa even though the international trade in rhino horn was banned back in 1977. The country of South Africa banned domestic trade in rhino horn back in 2009 but according to Chris de Bruno Austin, the founder of Care for Wild Rhino, the species is more endangered than ever. ” We’ve gone past the tipping point. We have to save all the orphans, every single one is gold now. White and black even more. The black rhino are really, really critically endangered.“ ”Old news“, is what you might think now. But what is fairly new news is that amidst this critical situation the South African parliament is actually considering allowing limited trade and export of rhinoceros horn for personal use. Wait, what? Let’s have an in-depth look at this proposed law and its pros and cons.

In 2015 two independent rhino breeders went to court and were successful in challenging the ban. Even though the government filed an appeal the court still ruled in the breeders’ favour. This is why the Department of Environmental Affairs has now proposed a law that includes the permission to trade in rhino horn domestically and export two horns at one time for personal use. The law also includes strict controls on the trade with the government keeping records of both buyers and sellers. By doing so the government hopes to reduce illegal poaching.

Animal rights groups are not too happy with this proposal. They strongly believe all kinds of trade of rhino horn must be banned and that even limited trade could lead to criminals getting involved.
”We don’t believe that the necessary control mechanisms are currently in place at an international, national or provincial level to enable law enforcement and permitting staff to be able to regulate this legal domestic trade alongside the existing levels of illegal trade in horn.“, Jo Shaw, the manager of WWF’s South Africa Rhino Program, was quoted.

On the other side, the Private Rhino Owners Association argues that the international ban has never really protected Africa’s rhinos. They believe that legal trade could actually help the animals since the money could be used to support reserves, that had to sell rhinos because security costs had become too expensive.

Rhino horns can be worth an unbelievable amount of 23,000 USD. The horns are used to treat medical problems in Asian countries even though there is no evidence that rhino horns actually help these medical issues. According to the government, South Africa loses up to 1,000 rhinos to illegal poaching per year.