Skukuza — Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has urged private landowners who are in possession of rhino horn stockpiles to register them.
Molewa, who was speaking at a press conference at the Kruger National Park in Skukuza on Wednesday, said it was a legal requirement to register horns with provincial conservation authorities.
"The Biodiversity Act of 2004 requires that everyone who is in possession of the horns stockpile should have a permit. It is essential to know who is in possession of the horns so that it will help us fight against poaching," said Molewa.
The minister told journalists that South Africa was not ready to make any proposal to legalise rhino trade at international markets.
She said South Africa had agreed not to propose the legalisation of trading in rhino horns during the COP16 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Mexico, North America, in 2010.
"Many things still need to be done in order to consider the proposal of dealing with the issue. Before we can approach the CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora], there are issues that need to be considered," said Molewa.
She added that among the many things to be considered was that all rhino horns in private and government possession must be registered, must have permits, must be marked and verified.
She said no legal trade of rhino was permitted in the current consumer states.
"One of the most vital things that need to be done includes the issue of identifying partners that we will be dealing with... trading partners must be identified and confirmed, legislation of trading partners must be amended to enable them to legally import and sell rhino horn," she said.
She said there would also be a need to develop a proposed system for trade, including appropriate legislative provisions in South Africa and potential recipient countries, which similar to ivory trade, where Japan and China had to provide for legislative systems to ensure control mechanisms are in place relating to ivory.
"Cabinet approval is needed before submission of a proposal to [CITES] to amend the annotation to the CITES listing of the South African population of White rhino.
"Currently the annotation is for the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade in live animals to the appropriate and acceptable destinations and hunting trophies. All other specimens are deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix I and the trade in them shall be regulated accordingly," she said.
This follows the South African Hunting and Game Conservation Association's suggestion that the government should legalise trading in rhino horns.
South African National Parks chief executive David Mabunda announced that about 617 rhinos would be poached by the end of this year if the current SANParks anti-poaching strategy is not properly implemented.
"I am not saying we will lose the battle, but I am saying that if nothing is done about this, we will reach this number before December," said Mabunda.
Molewa said this year alone, rhino poaching has resulted in the death of 159 rhinos.
"The Kruger National Park continues to bear the brunt of these losses, with the rhinos poached in the park having reached a staggering total of 95," she said.