South Africa will not submit a proposal to legalize trade in rhino horn to the 17th Conference of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to be hosted in Johannesburg in September.
The recommendations were endorsed by the Interdepartmental Technical Advisory Committee and an Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed to investigate the possibility of legalising commercial international trade in rhino horn has decided against it, confirmed Jeff Radebe, Minister for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation
The proposal to open international trade in rhino horn, championed by private rhino owners, remains highly controversial.
Opponents, including WildAid, warned that legitimizing the use of rhino horn by promoting trade can massively increase consumer demand in Asia for a product that is falsely claimed to cure cancer, hangovers and other illnesses.
“A huge increase in consumer demand would not be controllable and would result in sharply increased rhino poaching,” says WildAid.
The organisation states that legal trade mechanisms can easily be used to launder poached horn.
WildAid referenced a similar experiment undertaken by CITES in 2008, when 108 tons of elephant ivory were auctioned off to Japanese and Chinese buyers, stimulating a continent-wide poaching epidemic that saw the loss of 30 000 elephants a year and recently prompted China, Hong Kong and the United States to announce a ban on domestic ivory sales.
There are only about 20 000 White and 4 000 Black Rhino surviving.
The trade proposal would have required the support of a two-thirds majority of the 180-plus countries expected to attend the Conference in order for it to succeed – but experts say this would have been highly unlikely given the low numbers of rhinos, the catastrophic outcome of the ivory experiments and the on-going failure to control poaching within South Africa”. ”
WildAid CEO Peter Knights says, “This decision is in the best interests of South Africa and all rhinos. It will have wide international support and now the government can unite the world at the CITES meeting in cracking down on the trade in rhino horn.”