South African Government Taken to Court Over Rhino Horn Trade Moratorium

By Adam Cruise

Two of South Africa’s largest private rhino breeders have taken the South African government to court in an effort to lift a moratorium that bans domestic trade in rhino horn.

In 2012, Johan Kruger, a Limpopo game farmer and rhino breeder, introduced litigation against the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and its minister, Edna Molewa.

He was joined this year by a second rhino owner, John Hume, from the Malelane area south of Kruger National Park, who applied to the high court in Pretoria to partner with Kruger, the original applicant.

The cases will be heard on September 22.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a ban on international trade in rhino horn has been in place since 1977 because poaching has jeopardized the survival of the species.

In 1994 as a result of its conservation success, white rhinos in South Africa were down-listed from CITES Appendix I (which imposes a prohibition on all international commercial trade in rhinos and their products, including their horns) to Appendix II. This more lenient conservation status allows the international sale of live animals, as well as the export of “trophy” horns taken in legal non-commercial hunts.

In 2003, Vietnamese (and other) nationals, and some commercial rhino breeders, obtained horn with CITES permits under the guise of trophy hunting and sold them illegally on the Asian black market.

Six years later, in an attempt to plug the trophy hunting loophole, the South African government placed a moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horn.

The moratorium coincided with an unprecedented spike in rhino poaching in South Africa.

Calls to Lift Trade Ban

At a Rhino Summit in October 2010, the DEA agreed to commission a feasibility study carried out by a group of ecologists and economists to determine the viability of a legal —> Read More