1175 rhino were poached in 2015 in South AfricaGovernment is in a race against time to pronounce its stance on the legalisation of rhino horn trade.

The deadline for proposals for the 17th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is set for April this year.

South Africa, as this year's conference host, faces the largest recorded rhino poaching incidents worldwide.

A total of 1175 rhino were poached in 2015.

World rhino populations have been at risk since the early 1960s due to rising incidents of poaching and the increased demand for rhino horn in Asia.

With approximately 75% of the world's rhino population, South Africa moved to ban trade in rhino horn in 2009.

This came as poaching levels escalated and many feared that local trade was delivering poached horns to international trafficking networks.

However, recent opposition to the ban and government's insistence on upholding it, have left much speculation ahead of the CITES conference.

The South African government faces a mammoth task petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn the rhino horn moratorium judgment passed by the Pretoria High Court.

Government is also preparing to outline its stance on the matter at the upcoming conference.

Spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Affairs, Albi Modise says, "The interministerial committee will soon meet to consider the report of the committee."

"They will engage with that particular report and will formulate a process as well as recommendations for cabinets approval because remember the committee was entrusted with the responsibility of engaging with a number of stakeholders across the country to look at all the pros and cons and to listen to all sides and then coming out of that particular process to comply a report to the interministrerial committee which will meet soon so the next legislation for cabinet to engage the report."

 

At the moment South Africa and Swaziland are allowed to export hunting trophies of rhino

 

Private rhino breeder John Hume has rhino horn stockpiles of over 4 000 kilograms and has invested over a billion rand housing and protecting over 1 200 rhino. He is spear-heading the battle for the legal trade in rhino horn.

"We only went to court because the government said go away we are not going to lift the moratorium. We believe we should be working with the government towards persuading people who are going to vote at CITES that South Africa can look after its rhino, it can breed more rhino but we need to reward the people, hopefully the communities who breed rhino. We need to reward the people who breed rhino."

Rhino horn is more expensive than platinum and gold. It is anticipated that trade in rhino horn will bring in huge foreign income, significant profits for farmers and greater job creation.

Chair of the Private Rhino Owners Association, Pelham Jones says, We have to look at economic yield to allow south Africa to have a successful application to CITES in 2016 allowing for legalized trade. We in South Africa, together with our neighbours in Namibia, Zimbabwe and going up North, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, all those countries have substantive stock piles of rhino horn.”

International trade in rhino horn was banned by CITES in the 1970s.

The CITES Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, David Morgan says, “At the moment South Africa and Swaziland are allowed to export hunting trophies of rhino and also light specimens of rhino to acceptable destinations but there is no general trade in rhino horn allowed at the moment; now next September that might or might not change depending on how the parties vote.”

According to CITES, a country that seeks to motivate in support of the trade in rhino horn will need to present supporting documents justifying their decision.

This will be in terms of the impacts on the conservation of the species and the likely trade that will be permitted.

The wildlife conservation regulator says it will require the vote of a two-thirds majority of the 181 CITES member countries for the international ban to be lifted.

 

Originally Published by SABC News

Article by Sentleeng Lehihi

 

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