The level of rhino poaching since government’s moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horn came into effect was “quite alarming” and there was no evidence that it helped to stop international smuggling, a high court judge has said.
A full bench of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria yesterday set aside government’s moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horns because government failed to meet even the minimum requirements of a public consultative and participatory process. The court order follows an application by Malelane game farmer John Hume, who is the largest rhino breeder in the world.
In a unanimous judgment, written by Judge Francis Legodi, the court said Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa should have taken more proactive steps before the moratorium was imposed.
The court did not find that the moratorium was unconstitutional or irrational, but said Hume had a valid point that it violated his right to property. Hume’s stockpile of 1 124 rhino horns became worthless overnight.
The judge did not agree with Molewa that the lifting of the ban would mean a flood of poaching and smuggling of rhino horns. He did not think the immediate lifting of the moratorium would have any “disastrous implications” and the solution appeared to lie in the effective implementation of existing and envisaged measures.
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According to the judge
- “The moratorium was never meant to be a permanent ban on domestic trade in rhino horns … It was put into effect in 2009. It is over six years since then … This cannot be justified,” he said in his written judgement.
- “There is a concession that the moratorium did not and does not assist in the reduction of rhino poaching.
- “… The level of rhino poaching since the moratorium is quite alarming.
- “… The exact percentage attributable to the moratorium is not known, but clearly its role in adding to the surge in poaching cannot be excluded.