The proposed regulations to allow rhino horn trade and export in South Africa could worsen the trafficking crisis‚ an animal welfare organisation has warned.
The department of environmental affairs last week announced draft regulations that would allow domestic trading of rhino horn‚ a step that was welcomed by the Private Rhino Owners’ Association of SA as a step in the right direction.
The draft provides for a person from another country who visits South Africa to export a maximum of two rhino horns “for personal purposes“.
The draft regulations specify that Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport will be the only point of entry or exit for rhino horn or any rhino horn product.
The public has a month to comment on the draft‚ which was compiled following a High Court judgment in November 2015 that set aside a February 2009 freeze on the trading of rhino horn in South Africa.
Audrey Delsink‚ Humane Society International/Africa executive director‚ said South Africa’s proposed regulations would not only open a loophole for criminal syndicates to launder poached rhino horn‚ but also create an enforcement nightmare‚ both within the country and internationally.
“We do not have the luxury of time to spare when it comes to the fate of rhinos‚ and we have to focus on shutting down the illegal trade rather than endorsing legal trade in rhino horn which has significant enforcement challenges and poor capacity‚” Delsink said.
She said rhinos were poached for their horns‚ which were sold on the black market for high prices and consumed as medicinal tonics‚ despite not having any medicinal value that was scientifically backed.
She said private rhino owners in South Africa have hailed the proposed regulations‚ as they would allow them to sell their vast stockpiles of horns that they have removed from the animals‚ ostensibly to protect them from poachers.
“Under the proposed regulations‚ they could sell the horns to people from other countries who travel to South Africa‚ thereby creating loopholes and weak spots for an already failing system.”