By Sipho Hlongwane
The Cabinet is due to unveil a new rhino horn plan, which it will take to the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (Cites) in 2016.
The report will come at a time when the rhino populations are under unprecedented pressure from poaching. In 2012, poachers killed 668 in South Africa alone, and the number this year is already at 446, according to the Stop Rhino Poaching organisation. This is coming from a new rise in demand from the East — nobody seems to be able to say why this is, although the oft-told story is that a Vietnamese cabinet minister claimed that it healed him of some ailment.
The number of arrested poachers is on the rise, too. The Kruger National Park continues to be the worst hit, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs, with 247 dead animals and 50 poachers arrested in 2013 alone.
What must be done, and what can be done, is a topic of fierce debate, as one would expect when the subject matter is a creature that was considered endangered just 40 years ago.
I fully agree with the stance that the Cabinet has taken: one of caution, but one that will eventually bend towards full legalisation of rhino trade.
It seems absurd that we have come to this. Rhino horn is nothing more than compact hair cells — the same stuff as one’s fingernails. It would be much cheaper to encourage people to chew on their nails for their rheumatism than to buy rhino horn powder for $25,000 to $40,000 a kilogramme. Yet rhinos are dying. More....