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South African court rejects appeal making domestic rhino horn sales legal

January 30, 2016

South Africa’s North Gauteng High Court has dismissed the government’s leave to appeal a November ruling that lifted the ban on the domestic trade in rhino horn.

The decision came the day before the South African government announced rhino poaching figures for 2015  of 1175 and means that it is now possible for individuals to buy and sell rhino horn within South Africa. However, international trade in rhino horn remains prohibited under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF Wildlife Trade Policy Analyst said there is no domestic demand for rhino horn in South Africa so why would anyone buy it unless they intended it for an oversees market.

“It is hard to see any positive conservation benefits from lifting the moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horn, particularly at a time when rhino poaching figures are at record highs.”

“Reopening South Africa’s national rhino horn trade will make it even harder for already overstretched law enforcement agents to tackle record rhino poaching.”

It also goes against CITES which urges all Parties to adopt and implement comprehensive legislation and enforcement controls, including internal trade restrictions and penalties, aimed at reducing illegal trade in rhino horn.”

Dr Jo Shaw, Rhino Programme Manager for WWF South Africa said it was a blow to conservation efforts.

“There is no market for rhino horn in South Africa so lifting the domestic moratorium can only encourage illegal activity, especially as it is likely to be misconstrued as a lifting of the current international trade ban,” Dr Shaw said.

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