SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

8 June 2014

East Africa: No Final Proposal On Legal Trade in Rhino Horn

No final proposal has been made regarding the future legal trade in rhino horn as an additional intervention to reduce the levels of rhino poaching, says the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The department has taken note of media reports on the issue of possible trade in rhino horns by the country.

"[These] have been mischievous and have evidently been playing to the gallery by seeking to create confusion with regards to the government's position on the proposed trade in rhino horns," it said in a statement on Friday.

Last year, Cabinet authorised for the department to explore the possible legislation of trade in rhino horn with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) -- which is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals -- at the 17th Conference of Parties in 2016.

"No final proposal has been compiled, or decision made, regarding the future legal trade in rhino horn as an additional intervention to reduce the levels of poaching. This means no final proposal has been compiled regarding the future legal trade in rhino horn as an additional intervention to reduce the levels of poaching," explained the department.

Government is well aware of the worldwide assault on wildlife particularly rare and endangered species and South Africa as home to more than 80% of the world's rhino population has been facing an onslaught from rhino poaching syndicates since 2008.

Since the start of 2014 a total 442 rhino have been poached in South Africa while 123 suspected poachers were arrested. The Kruger National Park has lost 293 rhino to poachers, with 56 people, including a former ranger and two policemen, being arrested for poaching.

Of the total number of rhino poached, 48 rhino have been killed in Limpopo, 41 in KwaZulu-Natal and 28 in North West.

The department's initiatives to address poaching have incorporated not only the increase in numbers of rangers protecting the wildlife but also improving regional and international collaboration with range and consumer states.

Meanwhile, a panel of experts chaired by the department's Fundisile Mketeni has been appointed to assist the Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed by Cabinet to deliberate on the matters relating to a possible trade in rhino horn.

The panel has started its work and will, in the coming months, listen to all sides of the trade debate before submitting a set of recommendations to the Inter-Ministerial Committee. The proposal to be tabled to CITES in 2016 will be based on sound research and will also not be influenced by any individual wanting to "line their pockets" or any group opposed to South Africa's sustainable utilisation policies.

"South Africa believes that the decision to table a proposal at the next CITES COP is timeous, and maybe a step towards addressing a scourge. South Africa is however not in any way insinuating that the possible trade in rhino horns would be a panacea to the problem of poaching," said the department.

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