Court de­ci­sion giv­ing green light to trade in rhino horn di­vides opin­ion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - UFRIEDA HO

IF IT STICKS, Thurs­day’s High Court rul­ing to over­turn the mora­to­rium on trade in rhino horn leaves South Africa in con­tra­ven­tion of the Cites ban on in­ter­na­tional trade.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Depart­ment has an­nounced that it would chal­lenge the con­tentious court de­ci­sion.

Johannesburg is next year’s host city to Cites (Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) 2016 in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber. The in­ter­na­tional ban on trade in rhino horn is likely to dom­i­nate the agenda.

Johannesburg was a de­lib­er­ate choice. An­nounc­ing the de­ci­sion in June, Cites sec­re­tary-gen­eral John Scan­lon said that South Africa “is a highly ap­pro­pri­ate lo­ca­tion given the front­line wildlife chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties be­ing tack­led on the African con­ti­nent”.

Dr Jo Shaw, WWF South Africa rhino pro­gramme man­ager, said: “The world’s eyes will be on South Africa in the run-up to the Cites talks. On the one hand it of­fers us an op­por­tu­nity to show­case our suc­cess sto­ries in con­ser­va­tion, but on the other hand we can see the Cites’ pat­tern of ban rec­om­men­da­tions has been for coun­tries to im­ple­ment and en­force bans on do­mes­tic trade in rhino horn to be in place”.

Cites banned the in­ter­na­tional trade in rhino horn in 1977, while South Africa’s mora­to­rium on trade came into ef­fect – as Cites sig­na­tory – in Fe­bru­ary 2009.

Shaw said the mora­to­rium was over­turned in court on a tech­ni­cal­ity over how well it had been ad­ver­tised to the pub­lic – “an over­sight”.

She added: “The depart­ment’s court chal­lenge does buy us some time. Also, no trade can take place with­out per­mits, which are still granted by the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment”.

South Africa lost 1 200 rhino last year alone, and rhino poach­ing has reached the pro­por­tions of a na­tional cri­sis.

For game breed­ers, like the two suc­cess­ful chal­lengers to the mora­to­rium in court, trade in rhino horn gen­er­ates in­come that can be chan­nelled back into con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

The pro- trade fac­tion ar­gues that com­modi­ti­sa­tion of rhino horn will help shut down the black mar­ket in il­le­gal trade. Farming and har­vest­ing rhino horn will sat­isfy de­mand in the Far East, and breed­ing will stop the ex­tinc­tion of the species, they say.

The Na­tional Coun­cil of SPCAs is scathing. An NSPCA state­ment said: “We fear that if the judg­ment stands, a fur­ther con­se­quence will be our rhino will be­come farmed an­i­mals. Un­eth­i­cal prac­tices may be used to in­crease prof­its, which are likely to in­clude con­fin­ing an­i­mals to the small­est spa­ces pos­si­ble, feed­ing an­i­mals un­nat­u­ral di­ets, and phys­i­cally al­ter­ing or maim­ing an­i­mals to pre­vent them from in­jur­ing one an­other when con­fined in lim­ited spa­ces.

“Above all, rhi­nos are wild an­i­mals. They do not seek so­lace from be­ing near to hu­mans. Cap­tiv­ity, con­fine­ment and ma­nip­u­la­tion are for­eign and stress­ful to them”.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

WARD­ING OFF EX­TINC­TION: A Kenyan wildlife worker marks ele­phant tusks as part of Kenya’s in­ven­tory of rhino and ele­phant horn started in July.

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