Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Born Free condemns South Africa’s decision to overturn rhino horn trade ban

26 November 2015

Categories: Homepage News, Wildlife Trade News

International wildlife charity warns decision could put the world’s rhino at even greater risk

The Born Free Foundation has strongly condemned the decision of the High Court in Pretoria to overturn South Africa’s domestic ban on rhino horn trade.

The decision was prompted by a petition from two prominent game farmers, John Hume from Malelane and Johan Kruger from Limpopo. The petitioners claimed that the ban had fueled the escalation of rhino poaching, which in turn was rendering their rhino stocks uneconomic to maintain.

Many game farmers in South Africa have been calling on their Government to propose a legal mechanism to allow international trade in rhino horn at the next Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which takes place in South Africa in September 2016.

Born Free Foundation President, Will Travers OBE, said: “Rhinos are threatened by poaching for their horns across their remaining African and Asian range. South Africa has the majority of the world’s rhinos, but by no means all. Legalising trade in rhino horn, at either a domestic or an international level, sends a message to consumers that rhino horn is a legitimate product - and will inevitably lead to increased demand, incentivising further poaching. Trading in horn will not save rhinos – it could hasten their extinction.”

In South Africa, rhinos are traded between government-operated National Parks, where around three quarters of the country’s estimated 21,000 white and black rhinos reside, and private game farmers who own most of the remainder. Many of the farmers would like to be able to sell their stockpiles of rhino horn, obtained from natural mortalities or through dehorning operations designed to protect the animals from poachers, to pay for their ranching programmes.

Rhino horn is reported to sell for more than US$65,000 per kg to end users in Vietnam and other parts of Asia. Originally coveted for its perceived value in traditional medicine, claims in recent years that it can cure cancer have resulted in a huge escalation in demand and fueled the current poaching epidemic, even though there is no evidence for its potency. Rhino horn is now being bought as an investment by speculators who stand to make a killing if the trade is legalised, as some in South Africa hope.

More than 1,200 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa alone in 2014, and the deadly estimate for 2015 is predicted to exceed that number. The epidemic shows no sign of slowing. If it continues, there are fears that rhinos could become extinct across much of their remaining range.

However, legalising the market for rhino horn will not help solve the problem, and could very well accelerate poaching.

Will Travers continued: “South Africa does not exist in isolation, and the decisions it makes will have repercussions in other rhino range countries in Africa and Asia which are struggling to protect their remaining rhinos. Leading international economists and conservation experts agree that the markets for rhino horn are highly unpredictable, and that legalising the trade would be a huge risk, one that will be very difficult to reverse should it prove disastrous – as I predict it will. This decision, which seems to be based on the desire of private rhino owners to make a lot of money by selling their stocks of rhino horn, puts all of Africa and Asia’s remaining rhinos at even greater jeopardy. We urge the South African authorities to appeal the judgement and desist from any further efforts to legalise rhino horn trade.”

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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