Private rhino breeders go head to head with the South African government on Monday‚ in a court case that seeks to lift the moratorium on domestic rhino trade.
The civil case is set down in the Pretoria High Court and has been brought by two of South Africa’s biggest rhino breeders. It will run between June 15-19.
The government is known to be consulting widely on whether or not to make a submission at the 2016 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) asking for the lifting of a ban on international trade on rhino horn‚ however‚ without a similar easing of restrictions in the domestic market this is unlikely to be granted.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said the challenge by the rhino breeders was disingenuous and not driven by any form of conservation motive.
“At a time when rhinoceros are being slaughtered at an unprecedented rate for their horns‚ this legal bid by a small group that stand to benefit directly from the international sale of rhino horn‚ should be condemned.
“This is not a challenge based on the need to conserve and protect rhino; that is a fallacious and disingenuous argument. It is a challenge driven purely by economic incentives and it is the rhino that will pay the ultimate price if the court rules in the favour of the applicants‚” said Jason Bell‚ IFAW director Southern Africa.
“We urge the government to resist the court challenge with all its legal might‚ and trust the court’s judgment in coming down on the side of the rhino by rejecting the breeder’s bid.”
Last month the government announced that rhino poaching during the first quarter of 2015 had outstripped the same period last year‚ with 393 rhinos poached countrywide between January and April 31 2015. Of those 290 were killed in the Kruger National Park.
The poaching of rhinoceros is driven by demand for its horn in Asia‚ specifically Vietnam where it is mistakenly believed to have medicinal properties. Internationally CITES banned trade in rhino horn in 1977 but South Africa only placed a moratorium on domestic trade in 2009.