By Sue Blaine
If South Africa decides that trade in rhino horn has a chance of saving the species from extinction, it could apply to the next full meeting of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in 2016 to be allowed to sell the horn.
This is according to Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, who also says with the country due to host the conference, South Africa’s position could enjoy home game advantage.
Rhino horn sales have been banned for more than 30 years under Cites, but increasing demand from Far Eastern countries has sparked an increase in poaching. Rhino horn sells for an estimated $60,000/kg.
"Depending on the amount of thinking we will have done by 2016, we could put trade on the agenda then, or we could do it at the one thereafter (in 2019). We can’t take short cuts," she says.
Although Ms Molewa and her delegation did some groundwork on the issue at the Cites meeting in Bangkok last month, she says "a whole lot of work still needs to be done".
This includes ascertaining the size of private horn stockpiles in South Africa, which nations would be potential legal buyers from, the strength of security in South Africa and in buyer nations, and the way trade control legislation works in buyer nations. "We are looking for a solution to a big problem and, having listened for a whole year to (people who made submissions at a series of workshops on what to do to save the rhino) the bigger voice says, ‘If you continue to work as you work every day and you don’t even open up a discussion on this issue (trade) you are going to be found wanting in 2026’," Ms Molewa says.
Scientists believe the rhino could cease to exist in 2026 if the poaching rate is not reduced or better, stopped.
South Africa is home to more than 90% of the global rhino population, and scientists have warned that if poaching increases at the same rate as it did between 2009 and 2011, when the tally jumped from 122 to 448, just more than a threefold increase, the species will be extinct. It could go into decline by 2016. More....