Cape Town - The SA government’s new draft amendments on the trade of rhino horn are open for public comment and certain criteria, are being questioned by conservationists.
While SA refused to submit a proposal to legalize trade in rhino horn to the 17th Conference of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), hosted in Johannesburg last year - the DEA has done an about turn with the new draft amendments, with a proposal to open trade in rhino horn remaining highly controversial.
According to the Draft Regulations for the "domestic trade in Rhinoceros Horn, or a part, product or derivative of Rhinoceros Horn in terms of Chapter 7 of the Biodiversity Act, would be legally exported on the basis that a person from another country who visits South Africa is allowed to export no more than two horns for personal purposes”.
SEE: SA rejects trade in rhino horn legalisation
While the amendment outlines the process to be followed when applying to carry out restricted activities involving rhino horn, as a person may not sell or otherwise trade in a rhinoceros horn, unless a permit has been issued - the amendments are said to be too short on specifics and "too vague".
National database of horns in SA
“An application relating to the selling or otherwise trading in, giving, donating, buying, receiving, accepting as a gift or donation, or in any way disposing or acquiring, of rhinoceros horn, must be referred by the relevant issuing authority to the Department for recording of the information on the national database.”
SEE: SA domestic trade in rhino horn allowed as DEA appeal dismissed
Outraged SA Citizens Against Rhino Poaching says the department has done a shock 180º turnaround.
Allison Thomson of Outraged SA Citizens Against Rhino Poaching has been quoted in saying, “It spent two years fighting to justify the moratorium. Rhinos are not the only problem, we’ve seen a 300% increase in elephant poaching. We should be looking at solving this problem of organised crime,” says Allison Thomson, of Outraged SA Citizens Against Rhino Poaching.
Thomson says that the new draft regulations fail to make it clear if “it’s two rhinos per person per day, two per week or two in a lifetime. There is not enough detail to dissect this document.”
In 2016 the DEA challenged the lifting of a domestic moratorium on the trade of rhino horn, which was upheld. With the rhino horn trade moratorium effectively "lifted on a technicality related to incorrect government procedures".
Medical tourism surge
The department at the time, concerned that domestically-sold horn would leak out into the international market, had attempted to prevent the lifting but the court rejected the government's appeal against the judgement finding, while a ban may be prudent, the government had "failed to follow its own procedures for soliciting public comment".
SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Government tight-lipped on rhino poaching stats
Following the lifting of the ban, WidlAid raised concerns around the matter saying the moratorium needed to be reinstated immediately as there had been persistent reports that "prominent private rhino owners who contested the moratorium hope to attract East Asian citizens to South Africa to consume rhino horn in-country as a form of medical tourism."
The draft amendments, published for comment can be accessed here, with the deadline for comment closing on March 8.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- #ShockWildlifeTruths: 2015 the worst year in decades for rhino poaching
- EXCLUSIVE: 'Rhino poaching is a crisis of governance,' says wildlife expert
- Lion culling: A paradox of banning trophy hunting?