South Africa will allow domestic trade of rhino horns again, after a seven-year ban.
This is after the South African Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in favor of domestic trade of rhino horns dismissing a government bid to uphold the seven-year ban on the domestic trade in rhino horn.
According to National Geographic, South Africa is home to the world’s largest rhino population, and nearly all of the world’s 20,000 white rhinos.
Rhino horns grow back after being cut off, so advocates of lifting the trade ban say rhinos could be raised on private farms where their horns would be taken off periodically after tranquilization, as NPR has reported. Conservationists say ending the ban would lift the stigma of the trade and ultimately raise demand.
The number of rhinos killed for their horns has been on the rise.
“Last year, 1,175 rhinos were poached — 40 fewer than in 2014 but still significantly higher than the 13 killed in 2007,” wrote National Geographic.
About a quarter of South Africa’s rhino population is in private hands and even with the appeals court ruling, buyers and sellers of the horns in South Africa still need a permit, so that the government can keep tabs on the commodity.
The move comes at an especially awkward moment for the South African given that in September the country will host the triennial meeting of CITES. With the pro-trade statements by the country’s wildlife negotiators at the previous CITES meeting, in Bangkok, many had anticipated that the South African government would use the opportunity to push for removing the international ban on rhino horn trade.
International trade in rhino horn has been banned since 1977 among the now 182 member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body that governs international wildlife trade.
But CITES covers trade between countries; it does not apply to trade within a country’s own borders. South Africa, allowed domestic trade in white rhino horns until 2009. That year, in response to a rise in poaching, the government imposed a moratorium, shutting off the internal South African rhino horn business.