South Africa Legalizes Rhino Horn Trade, Despite Massive Opposition

A South African court has ruled to legalize the trade of rhino horns, with just “three terse sentences” National Geographic reports.

The international trade in rhino horn has been banned for decades, and was shut down in South Africa – home to the largest population of rhinos on earth, according to data from 2009. The future of the rhino species is continuously jeopardized because of the demand for their horns. Thousands of rhinos have been ruthlessly killed by poachers to meet consumer demands for rhino horns.

In April, conservationists celebrated a victory when South Africa decided against submitting a proposal to legalize the international trade in rhino horns at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which will be held in Johannesburg this upcoming September.

“Make no mistake; legalizing trade in rhino horn would have been nothing short of disaster for species that are just barely hanging on now as it is. The South African decision does not fix the plight of rhinos―but it gives space and time to tackle poaching, close down illegal markets and eliminate the loopholes that already help enable the $20 billion market in illegal international wildlife trade. South Africa bought more time for rhinos today―and should follow up with more key actions to keep these animals on the planet,” Alex Kennaugh, a wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said at the time.

Now, however, the win is being undermined by a recent decision handed down by South Africa’s Court of Appeal, which effectively legalizes the trade within South Africa.

The ruling is the result of a challenge to the ban brought by rhino ranchers, and those on their side continue to argue that funds could be used to support conservation efforts, but opponents have serious concerns that it will do more harm than good, especially with poaching levels reaching record highs.

They also point to the fact that there’s virtually no market for horns within South Africa, which has raised worries that they will most likely be smuggled out and sold elsewhere illegally, and that legalizing the trade will kill the message that rhino horn, like elephant ivory, is something no one should be buying at all.

According to Reuters, in response the government may now change legislation, make obtaining permits to buy, sell or possess rhino horns so difficult to get it effectively stifles the trade, or it may possibly appeal to a higher court, but it’s not yet clear what course of action it will take.

Hopefully it will do something to undo this. Considering the global efforts being undertaken to combat the illegal trade in wildlife and to promote the conservation of imperiled species in their natural habitats, we need to continue to push for more work on those fronts and rethink how inherently valuable these species are, instead of trying to figure out ways to ‘save’ them through continued exploitation.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

165 comments

Ann B
Ann B4 months ago

THIS IS SO WRONG ---- MONEY OVER EXTINCTION!!!! WE MUST STOP THIS TOGETHER

SEND
Danuta W
Danuta W4 months ago

Thanks for posting .

SEND
Peggy B
Peggy B5 months ago

Noted

SEND
Sue H
Sue H5 months ago

I wonder if this has been overturned?

SEND
Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND
william Miller
william Miller2 years ago

thanks

SEND
Patricia Harris
John Taylor2 years ago

Lyn V., no matter how many times we've been ignored, we can't just give up trying.

SEND
Lyn V.
Lyn V2 years ago

Kudo's Mark D--------------our words fall on deaf ears

SEND
Lyn V.
Lyn V2 years ago

I am with you Micky B, I'm also ex-African and guess what we Africans, of all previous nationalities, tried to tell the rest of the World the powers that be in Africa were too imature to handle World Affairs but NO we were shouted down--now look!!!!! WE TRIED

SEND
Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 years ago

Rhino 'ranchers'? These exist? So there wouldn't be any money involved in this decision-making judicial process, is that the case?

SEND