By Mike Cohen, Paul Burkhardt
South Africa’s government is backing the legalization of trade in rhino horns in an effort to stem poaching of the endangered animals.
“South Africa cannot continue to be held hostage by the syndicates slaughtering our rhinos,” Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa told reporters today in Pretoria, the capital. “The establishment of a well-regulated international trade” could help curb rhino poaching, she said.
At least 446 rhinos have been killed illegally in South Africa this year, with 280 slaughtered in Kruger National Park, a conservation area the size of Israel that borders Mozambique and where the army has been deployed, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a June 26 statement. The rate of deaths this year is on course to exceed 2012’s record.
South Africa’s government has about 16,437 kilograms (36,237 pounds) of stockpiled rhino horn, while 2,091 kilograms more is in private hands, Fundisile Mketeni, a deputy director-general in the department, told reporters. The government favors a once-off sale of horn derived from rhino fatalities and doesn’t plan to dispose of horn from “illegal activities,” he said.
The animals’ horns sell for more than gold by weight in China and Vietnam, where they are believed by some to cure cancer and boost virility. More....