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WWF regrets the decision by South Africa’s North Gauteng High Court to dismiss the government’s leave to appeal an earlier ruling that lifted the ban on the domestic trade in rhino horn.
The decision comes the day before the South African government is due to announce rhino poaching figures for 2015 and means that it is now possible for individuals to buy and sell rhino horn within South Africa. However, international trade in rhino horn remains prohibited under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF Wildlife Trade Policy Analyst:
“It is hard to see any positive conservation benefits from lifting the moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horn, particularly at a time when rhino poaching figures are at record highs.
There is no domestic demand for rhino horn in South Africa, so it is inconceivable that anyone would buy it – unless they intend to sell it abroad illegally or they are speculating that international trade will be legalised.
Reopening South Africa’s national rhino horn trade will make it even harder for already overstretched law enforcement agents to tackle record rhino poaching.
It also goes against CITES which urges all Parties to adopt and implement comprehensive legislation and enforcement controls, including internal trade restrictions and penalties, aimed at reducing illegal trade in rhino horn.”
Dr Jo Shaw, Rhino Programme Manager for WWF South Africa:
“The High Court ruling is a serious blow. There is no market for rhino horn in South Africa so lifting the domestic moratorium can only encourage illegal activity, especially as it is likely to be misconstrued as a lifting of the current international trade ban.
Efforts should rather be focussed on actions to stop the organised criminal syndicates involved in rhino horn trafficking as well as good regulation of existing rhino horn stockpiles and increased capacity at ports of entry and exit to detect illegal wildlife products.”