May 21, 2019 | Updated: 01:09 PM EDT

South African Court Favors Domestic Trade Of Rhino Horns

Apr 07, 2017 05:38 AM EDT

South African Constitutional Court Says Yes To Domestic Rhino Horn Trade
(Photo : Scott Barbour/Getty Images) The Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa, has just turned down a government appeal to continue with the moratorium on the trade of rhino horns.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled against an appeal made by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to continue the prohibition on the sale of rhino horn in the domestic market. This means the sale of these horns in the domestic market is now legally permissible. The trading of horns is not allowed in the international market. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), signed by at least 100 countries worldwide, has prohibited the trading of horns since 1977. DEA Spokesperson Albie Modise said despite the ruling, there is an existing rule that requires permits for trading the horns domestically.

Up to 80 percent or roughly equivalent to 20,000 of the world's rhino population is found in South Africa. There is an increasing demand for rhino horns in powdered form, as these are sold in China, Vietnam and other parts of the world as aphrodisiac and cure for cancer. Last year, poachers killed 1,054 rhinos in South Africa to meet the global demand for rhino horns.

Private Rhino Owners Association Chairman Pelham Jones said they are delighted with the Constitutional Court's ruling on the legalization of the domestic trade of rhino horns. Some breeders believe that rhino poaching can only be stopped by open and legal trade, according to The Guardian. They proposed the use of anesthesia for rhinos before their horns are sawed off since the horns will grow back anyway.

Research shows a continuous increase in the mass slaughter of rhinos in the past six years, with 1,388 animals killed in Africa last year for the rhino horns. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported that around 5,940 rhinos have been killed since 2008 due to poaching. The poaching has been blamed on the continuous demand for the horns because of their supposed medicinal properties.

"Any increase in poaching is alarming but there are some positives. When poaching started to escalate in 2008, we saw year after year of exponentially increasingly poaching," IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group's Dr. Richard Emslie said.

Emslie considered the slight decline in the rate of the rise in the numbers of rhinos killed from 1,215 in 2014 to only 1,175 in 2015 is encouraging, according to BBC. But while the situation in South Africa has slightly improved, there are more reasons to worry about the situation in Namibia and Zimbabwe. He said all countries need to be on guard against those who covet rhino horns.

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