South Africa Pushes Forward On Plans to Legalise Rhino Horn Trade

The government of South Africa is moving forward with plans to legalise the sale of rhino horn within the country, including provisions for the export of the animal product that has fueled a poaching crisis many fear could lead to the species’ extinction within a decade.

Draft regulations filed in February by South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, would allow the domestic sale of rhino horn for “personal purposes” with a valid permit. Individuals, including foreign nationals, would be allowed to export a limited amount of the product, solely through the country’s O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, for the same reason: either full horns or the equivalent in horn parts, powder or shavings.

In the last decade, powdered rhino horn has become more valuable than its weight in gold or cocaine, spurred by demand in some Asian countries where it’s thought ― with no medical backing ― to cure everything from cancer to impotence. The horn is actually made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails.

The proposed regulations do not say why the country has considered opening up the trade, although in the past advocates have argued the sale of horn could help finance the protection of living animals.

South Africa is home to most of the world’s remaining rhinos, and both the government and private citizens have stored horn caches worth millions, or even billions, of dollars. Some of these breeders have become outspoken activists for a legal trade, arguing the stockpiles could flood the market, drastically drop prices and undercut poachers who kill more than 1,000 rhinos every year.

“Banning the trade in horn has made the horn more and more and more valuable,” John Hume, a rhino breeder who owns more than 1,100 of the animals, told the Associated Press. “Had we never banned it, the price of horn would never have got to where it is now.”

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Source: Huffington Post