Panel to consider merits of legal rhino horn trade

SA HAS appointed a panel of experts to examine the viability of a legal rhino horn trade, the environmental affairs ministry said on Tuesday as poaching of the species reached to record highs.

The 21-member task team will look into technical and strategic aspects of the trade. “It is important to emphasise that SA has not taken a position on the issue and will not do so until the committee has completed its work and presented its findings,” the ministry said in a statement.

The committee, which includes conservationists, scientists and immigration authorities, is tasked with identifying additional measures to curb the illegal killings, including enhanced intelligence to break up syndicates.

It has to submit its report to government before year-end.

In 2014 1,215 animals were killed, a 21% increase from 2013.

The slaughter of rhino is driven by the demand for its horn in Asian countries.

The powdered horn, made of the substance similar to human fingernails, is popularly believed to have medicinal properties, although there is no scientific proof for the claim.

Internationally, the rhino horn trade was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in 1977.

But a domestic trade continued in SA. Government later placed a moratorium on the local trade in 2009.

If SA decides to pursue a legal rhino horn trade, it will have to win over two-thirds of member states at the next Cites conference, due to be held in SA in 2016.

A kilogram of rhino horn is said to sell for up to $100,000 in Vietnam, double the price of gold. – AFP