By Wyndham Hartley
The government is yet to decide whether it will seek a two-year window in which to sell off its rhino horn stockpile as a means of halting or slowing the slaughter of the animals by poachers.
This comes as the belief persists in some circles that flooding the market with legal horn would reduce the attraction of poaching as the price of the horn falls.
Scores of rhino have already been poached in SA this year.
Worldwide, the trade in rhino horn trade was banned in 1977 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
In SA a moratorium on domestic rhino horn sales was introduced in 2009.
Should SA ask for a legal horn trade it will have to convince two-thirds of the members of CITES that it is the right thing to do.
Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Monday, in a reply to a parliamentary question from Congress of the People MP Deidre Carter, that "the government has not made a decision relating to the possibility of international trade in rhino horn (or potential models or mechanisms) for such a trade".
She said a committee of inquiry she had set up was tasked with considering the feasibility of a proposal for the legalisation of a trade in rhino horn at the 17th CITES meeting. SA hosts the next meeting of the parties next year.
Ms Carter asked whether the Department of Environmental Affairs "will use current scientific and economic research to persuade CITES to grant the government a two-year period to flood the Eastern market with government-collected rhino horns to damp the demand, understand the nature of the trade and expand media interest there so that the government will have time to devise a comprehensive system for the protection of rhinos, especially in the Kruger National Park".
Ms Molewa said various United Nations structures had already adopted resolutions relating to the illegal wildlife trade.