The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) is worried about the impacts of the laundering of “blood horns” on South Africa’s wild rhino populations following a recent Constitutional Court ruling on rhino horn trade.
Rhino programme manager for the WWF in South Africa‚ Jo Shaw‚ said they were deeply concerned about the implications of the court ruling‚ which has effectively struck down the moratorium on domestic trade in horn.
“We’re concerned by the court’s decision and the grounds for lifting the moratorium relate to the procedures that were used to put it in place rather than to the substantive merits of the ban.
“Law enforcement officials do not have the capacity to manage parallel legal domestic trade on top of current levels of illegal poaching and trafficking and we worry about the resultant impacts of the laundering of so-called ‘blood horns’ upon our wild rhino populations‚” said Shaw.
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed an application by the Department of Environmental Affairs aimed at maintaining a ban on domestic rhino horn trade.
But this‚ said Shaw‚ did not change their “fundamental view” on the department’s proposed alternative in the form of draft regulations which would allow domestic trade and export of the rhino horn.
“Our call is for the government to rather renew the moratorium in a manner that complies with the legal procedural concerns at least until control mechanisms are proven‚” said Shaw.
On Thursday‚ Environmental Affairs minister Edna Molewa said that‚ while she was still studying the judgement‚ the court’s decision “should not be construed to mean that the domestic trade in rhino horn may take place in an unregulated fashion”.
Since the moratorium came into effect‚ the department has strengthened its laws‚ regulations and systems to ensure no regulatory loopholes exist with regards to the possession of rhino horn and a possible future trade in rhino horn.
Molewa said in the absence of the moratorium‚ all domestic trade in rhino horn will be subjected to the issuance of permits which are required to possess‚ transport and trade in rhino horns.
“The judgement does not mean that persons are allowed to trade without a permit issued by the relevant provincial conservation department‚” said Molewa.
The department noted that the court ruling did not relate to the international trade in rhino horn for commercial purposes. Commercial international trade was still prohibited in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
The draft regulations intended to manage trading in‚ and the acquisition of‚ rhino horn in South Africa‚ and the exporting of rhino horn have been welcomed by the Private Rhino Owners’ Association of SA.
The association believes that the proposed regulations could save rhinos’ lives and is a step in the right direction. The draft provides for a person from another country who visits South Africa to export a maximum of two rhino horns “for personal purposes”.
The draft regulations also specify that Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport will be the only point of entry or exit for rhino horn or any rhino horn product.
— TMG Digital/The Times