Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Rhinos at risk

20 February 2017

Categories: Homepage News, Wildlife Trade News

Proposed new regulations in South Africa would open up rhino horn trade. 

The world’s rhinos number less than 29,000, 70% of which are in South Africa. Poaching for their horns, which fetch high prices in illegal Asian markets, is the biggest threat currently facing rhinos.

In South Africa alone, more than 6,000 rhinos were brutally killed by poachers between 2008 and 2015, to supply horn to Vietnam, China and other Asian countries where it is used in traditional medicine and as a high-end gift and status symbol. Rhino poaching is also on the rise in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Yet South Africa’s government, under pressure from private rhino owners who own roughly a quarter of South Africa’s rhinos and want to sell their stocks of rhino horn, is proposing a new regulation which would legalise domestic trade and allow foreigners to buy horns within South Africa and export them to their home countries as ‘personal items’.

If it goes ahead, South Africa’s proposal could further threaten the world’s remaining rhinos by creating a massive loophole that will enable organised criminal syndicates to get rhino horns out of South Africa and into illegal markets, fuelling demand.

International commercial trade in rhino horn was banned in the 1970s, and most countries ban domestic trade. Efforts to protect rhinos from poachers and reduce demand for rhino horn in consumer countries such as China and Vietnam are beginning to show good signs of progress. South Africa’s proposals would undermine these efforts.

Born Free is doing all it can to persuade the South African government not to go down this road, and instead to focus on protecting its remaining rhinos and enforcing the international trade ban.

What you can do:

You can find South Africa’s proposed regulation at The public has until March 8th 2017 to make its concerns known to the South African government. Contact Tricia Holford on for details of Born Free’s letter-writing team ‘Activate’ and suggested letters and emails you can send on this issue.

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