A rather shallow BBC piece on a very important subject. Some private owners are literally just breeders who then sell on their rhino to private game farms and even for hunting. But many are genuinely concerned with saving the rhino and believe that a regulated, non-lethal trade in horn from dehorned rhinos will cut demand for poached horn and reduce poaching substantially. They are supported by very experienced and knowledgeable conservations like John Hanks and David Cook.  So just referring to “rhino breeders” is misleading and potentially pejorative – many of those private owners who have played a role in protecting and expanding the numbers of rhino in South Africa are not just breeders who treat rhinos as cash cows but people who can help repopulate wild areas depleted by poachers. 

The court decision should lead to extensive consultations on how to establish, monitor and control trade so that it feeds cash into conservation and local communities and so helps fight poaching from the ground up – this should not be about people making money from legalised horn trading but using a resource for sustainable-use conservation that is non-lethal. 

The SA government’s draft law is nonsensical, could be leaky as a sieve and aid laundering of poached horn or the revival of pseudo-hunts (where people pose as hunters so they can export trophies in order to sell the horn)  as a means of getting round the regulations.  They need something carefully controlled to convince other countries and CITES that a regulated, safe trade is possible to undercut the poachers and not provide opportunities for mixing illegal with legal horn – if SA is to export horn it must find willing partners abroad and do it properly, not in some shoddy fashion, which is sadly what one now expects of the Zuma kleptocracy. Knee-jerk reactions by pro and anti-trade campaigners will get us nowhere, there must be sane, considered debate and the drawing u of workable and transparent trade that redners the illegal trade and so poaching obsolete. KS


South Africa court permits domestic trade in rhino horns

A rhino is pictured in South Africa, 6 February 2013Getty Images Breeders believe that a legal trade in rhino horns is the only way to stop poachers

South Africa’s constitutional court has rejected an attempt by the government to keep a ban on the domestic trade in rhino horns.

The ruling that the application be dismissed means that rhino horns can effectively be traded in the country.

Rhino breeders argue that legalising the trade could cut the number of rhinos slaughtered as horns can be sawn off anaesthetised live animals.

However many conservationists disagree with the proposed policy. [KS: But many support it – so try to be balanced.]

The department of environmental affairs said authorities were still considering the implications of Wednesday’s judgment. [KS: Except that they have already issued draft legislation on legalising the trade and even allowing the export of two horns per person as “private property” – did you not know this?]

“It is important to note that permits are required to sell or buy rhino horn,” the department’s spokesman, Albie Modise, said in a statement.

The ruling only applies to the industry in South Africa as a ban on international trade remains in force.

Rhino breeders who have argued that open trade is the only way to prevent widespread slaughter of the animal welcomed the ruling.

“We are absolutely delighted at the ruling by the constitutional court,” Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA), told AFP news agency.

Breeders also argue that the process is not permanent as the horns grow back.

The Helping Rhinos organisation however tweeted that the ruling was “disastrous”. [KS: But what about other conservation groups that support a legal trade?]

South Africa is thought to be home to around 20,000 rhinos, around 80% of the worldwide population. More than 1,000 rhino were killed by poachers in South Africa in 2016.