Proposed regulations that could make it legal to deal in rhino horn as long as permits are authorised by the Department of Environmental Affairs have received a mixed reaction from conservation outfits.
The notice appealing for comment was released earlier this month after being signed by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.
A part of the draft regulations aims to control the domestic trade in rhino horn or its byproducts.
It also highlights penalties for culprits not following procedure, which could result in a R10-million fine or 10 years behind bars for repeat offenders.
Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) chairman Pelham Jones sent a letter to rhino owners urging them to submit recommendations on the proposed legislation.
In the letter, Jones stated that the PROA board recommendations would include the need for local horn trade for rhino conservation, including the need to offset the management costs of about R400-million a year for private reserves in the country.
Jones said the moratorium on rhino horn sales was a total failure.
“It has not saved the life of a single rhino and has achieved the unintended consequence of creating a vast transnational illegal trade in rhino horn and stimulated an illegal rhino poaching industry – resulting in the illegal killing of more than 6 000 rhino since its introduction, and security costs of about R1.2-billion a year to protect the remaining species.”
The proposal states that no person may give, donate, buy or accept rhino horn unless a permit has been issued.
A horn may also not be disposed of in any way unless a permit has been granted.
Should a permit be issued for export, the horns can be taken out of South Africa via OR Tambo only, provided they are accompanied by a string of documents including an affidavit, pictures, and serial and microchip numbers of each horn.
World Wide Fund rhino programme head Dr Jo Shaw said they too would be submitting a report and had identified a number of associated risks.
“We do not believe the necessary control mechanisms are in place at a national or provincial level to enable law enforcement and permitting staff to regulate legal domestic trade alongside the existing levels of illegal trade in rhino horn,” Shaw said.
“We are particularly concerned about the apparent inclusion of international exports within these regulations, given known challenges around law enforcement and compliance in consumer countries, such as Vietnam.”