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Wildlife Trade Specialists

Published 22nd April 2016

South Africa will not seek legalisation of the international trade in rhino horn

Pretoria, South Africa, 22nd April  . . . . The South African government has approved the recommendation of a Committee of Inquiry that the country not pursue the legalisation of international trade in rhino horn. The South African Cabinet approved the recommendation made by the Committee of Inquiry on the feasibility of trading in rhino horns that "the current mode of keeping the country’s stock levels be kept, as opposed to the trading in rhino horns".


TRAFFIC Executive Director Steven Broad said that, with rhino poaching figures still remaining unacceptably high, the decision made by the South African government is a shrewd and realistic one. "There is still significant uncertainty as to how illegal markets would be affected by any legal trade in terms of supply–demand dynamics and no specific proposals for how a secure trade channel might operate had been made."

Broad stressed that the focus now should remain on addressing the rampant poaching of rhinos and trafficking in rhino horns, and commended the Cabinet’s endorsement of South Africa’s integrated strategic management approach to resolving the problem through security, community empowerment, biological management, responsive legislative provisions and demand management.

"While poaching figures remain high, a slight decrease in rhino poaching in South Africa was apparent in 2015, and perhaps the authorities are having some impact on the ground. If South Africa continues redoubling these efforts, we may well soon see the light at the end of this very dark tunnel," he said. "TRAFFIC stands ready to assist the South African government in this regard."

South Africa earlier this year announced the official number of rhinos illegally killed in the country during 2015. The figure of 1,175 represented a slight drop on the 1,215 record total in 2014. However, overall rhino poaching figures for southern Africa total a record high for the continent, with the decrease in South Africa being more than offset by significant increases in neighbouring Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Broad stressed that a region-wide solution must be found, with collaborative measures that will more widely tackle the illegal wildlife trade in southern Africa as a whole, while also working with governments of the primary consumer nations. “The Southern African Development Community Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching Strategy, SADC LEAP, provides an excellent framework for this collaboration and TRAFFIC is committed to supporting the countries concerned to ensure its effective implementation.”

South Africa will host the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17) from 24 September to 5 October 2016. "We hope that Conference can now be a rallying point at which the international community can support and assist South Africa and the other rhino range States in finally ending this global crisis," he said.