The commercial international trade in rhino horn remains prohibited in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) provisions and would not be authorised in terms of the set of draft regulations, on which the public have the opportunity to comment until March 10, 2017.
That’s according to department of environmental affairs (DEA) spokesperson Albi Modise, responding to the furore around a DEA proposal that could see trade in rhino horn legislated for “personal use”.
“The Cites Convention differentiates between international trade for primarily commercial purposes and international trade for non-commercial purposes, including personal purposes or purely private use,” Modise said.
He noted that commercial purposes were primarily defined in a Cites Resolution adopted at the 15th Conference of the Parties, which stated they should be defined by the country of import “as broadly as possible so that any transaction which is not wholly ‘non-commercial’ will be regarded as ‘commercial’.
“The draft regulations include provisions relating to the regulation and requirements for the domestic trade in rhino horn, as well as export under very specific circumstances – and only if specific conditions or requirements can be met.”
Of course, where one sits on the issue dictates the response to the DEA’s proposal.
“Legalised trade in rhino horn will not only significantly improve these communities’ quality of life, but also lessen the pressure on the government to combat illegal poaching,” African Centre for Disaster Studies on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (NWU) researcher Michael Murphree wrote in an article on the NWU website.
He opined that the idea of establishing limited trade in white rhino horn was a “huge” economic opportunity.
“When a rhino is dehorned in a responsible manner, it grows back to its original length within two years.”
“In order to save the rhino we need to be resourceful and creative rather than sticking to old approaches such as blanket trade bans that have clearly failed.”
Environmental activist Don Pinnock explained on Daily Maverick that the proposed legislation “would permit the sale of two horns per person and their export by locals or foreigners as long as the conduit is OR Tambo Airport”.
“It requires a freight agent and a raft of DNA, microchip and document checking, which the DEA has no hope of administering,” said Pinnock.
In a 2014 study, the DEA noted 62% of rhino experts agreed with the idea of legalising international trade.