South African Government Acknowledges Letter Expressing Concerns Over a Proposal to Trade in Rhino Horn

A view of a rhinoceros in South Africa. Photograph by Chris Johns/National Geographic Creative.

By Katarzyna Nowak

South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has formally acknowledged the receipt of an open letter that voices concerns over a possible proposal to reopen international trade in rhino horn.

Rhinos are in decline from high rates of poaching for their horns. Six percent of South Africa’s rhinos (more than 1,200 individuals) were poached last year, and 2015 has seen an 18 percent increase in poaching.

The letter was posted on the DEA website on June 19, alongside other stakeholders’ submissions, and will be considered by a 22-member Committee of Inquiry (CoI). The CoI is currently deliberating on trade and will make its recommendation to the DEA by September.

As of July 2013, the DEA has been looking into the viability of a proposal by South Africa to legalize commercial international trade in rhino horn. The CoI was appointed in February of this year amid controversy over the selected membership of the panel.

The panel includes a member of the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group, a Lieutenant-General of the South African Police Services, a large mammal ecologist and social researcher from SANParks, WWF’s rhino program manager, two independent economists, and the Chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA).

Two members of the PROA are set to take the South African government to court, in a case recently postponed until September, in an effort to lift the national moratorium on rhino horn trade, put in place in June 2008 to tackle loopholes in trophy hunting.

South Africa’s proposal to lift the international ban on rhino horn trade would be voted on at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to be held in Johannesburg next year from September 24 to October —> Read More