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Johannesburg – Lifting the existing ban on trade in rhino horn is a hot topic in South Africa and the rest of the world. 

- Hanti Schrader

Many say it is an exercise in futility because even if the ban were to be lifted, it would take at least 10 years to finalize administrative arrangements, and by then it could be too late to save the rhino.

Lobbyists for or against trade made presentations before the Rhino Horn Trade Committee of Inquiry (RHTC) on March 25 and 26. The current regulations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) forbids trade, Lowvelder reported.

Anti-trade activist and conservationist Ian Michler told Lowvelder: “A change in the regulations must be motivated by showing that poaching will be significantly reduced, and the long-term survival chances of rhino will be increased. This should be done in the same way that a judge cannot convict on circumstantial evidence.”

In his presentation to RHTC, the biggest farmer of rhino in the world, John Hume, also a member of the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) and pro-trading, said it had been in the first place wrong to stop the legal supply of horn and that it was a hysterical step taken by CITES in 1977 and 2008.

“The demand is not going to go away, but what we have done was to give poachers a foot in the door in the first place.”

Hume added that most of the communities close to the Kruger National Park (KNP), the Limpopo or Mozambican Transfrontier Park have always successfully farmed with cattle, and so it would be easy to convince them to farm with rhino, as the money they could make would make a big difference to their financial status.

Other pro-traders suggested treating poachers and poaching as a level 5 crime with a minimum sentence of 15 years and to label legal rhino horn as such so that users could differentiate between poached and legally harvested horns. Anti-traders suggested that legalising trade in horns could increase the market for the product.

Last year, more than 1 200 rhino were poached in South Africa alone. In Africa an estimated 28 500 rhino are still standing, of which 21 000 are from South Africa.

Caxton News Service