South Africa is facing a major rhino-poaching crisis. In 2011, 448 rhinos were killed by poachers, of which 429 were white rhinos (representing approximately 2.2% of the national population) and 19 were black rhinos (approximately 0.9% of the population). During the first 6 months of 2012, 254 rhinos were killed by poachers: if this rate continues, as many as 508 rhinos may be killed by the end of the year, representing approximately 2.4% of the combined national herd of white and black rhinos. South Africa can currently sustain this rate of poaching because the population growth rate (approximately 6.5% for white rhinos and 5% for black rhinos) is higher than the off-take (legal and illegal), but if poaching continues to escalate, a tipping point may eventually be reached forcing the population into decline for the first time in 50-100 years. This would reverse the hard won achievements of South African conservationists responsible for one of the greatest conservation success stories ever seen in large mammals.
The driver for the illegal killing is a persistent demand for rhino horn from Asia, where it is used mainly for medicinal purposes. This demand cannot be met by legal supplies because international trade in rhino horn was banned by CITES in 1977 in response to long-term, high levels of rhino poaching that were threatening to push all rhino species to extinction. Although South Africa continued to allow legal trade of rhino horn within its borders after the international ban, this did not allow for the legal export of horn. Sometime after the year 2000, however, it is alleged that Asian nationals bought rhino horn through the legal internal permitting system, either directly from private rhino owners or indirectly through intermediaries, and then exported the horn illegally out of the country. When this fraudulent activity was suspected, the South African government placed a national moratorium on trade in rhino horn (Government Gazette No. 31899, Notice No. 148, 13 February 2009) in an attempt to stop it.
The timing of the implementation of the national moratorium coincided with the on-going surge in the rhino poaching in South Africa, leading some observers to suggest that the moratorium had contributed towards, or even caused, the crisis. At a Rhino Summit in October 2010, hosted by the then Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, the Department of Environmental Affairs agreed to commission a feasibility study to determine the viability of the legalisation of the trade in rhino horn in South Africa. The study had to do the following: a) Analyse trends in local (national) trade in rhino horn prior to the moratorium that came into effect in February 2009; b) Analyse trends in incidences of illegal killing prior to and subsequent to the national moratorium; c) Assess the potential national market for rhino horn; d) Determine security risks relating to the lifting of the moratorium; e) Identify measures to be put in place to address the risks identified above, including a response strategy; f) Recommend systems to be developed and implemented to regulate national trade in rhino horn, including a tracking and monitoring system; g) Identify the legal requirements to be addressed in terms of a national trade system; h) Identify means to ensure rhino horn traded nationally does not enter international trade; i) Analyse similar situations in other countries and advice on best practices and interventions made in those countries.
Main mitigation measures and recommendations
Set up a secure, national, electronic rhino permitting system and database for live rhinos and rhino horn stockpiles.
Encourage non-compliant private rhino owners to register their horn stockpiles by providing guidance and assistance with security, and by convincing them that their personal information will be stored securely.
Issue DNA certificates with each possession permit for each rhino and each rhino horn. Conduct regular audits of horn stockpiles to discourage illegal sales.
Only issue possession permits for rhino horns when sufficient proof of legal ownership or acquisition is provided.
Increase capacity at ports of entry/exit to detect illegal wildlife products.
South Africa should not lift the national moratorium at the present time.
However, it should immediately start developing a secure national electronic permitting system to bring non-compliance issues under control. This must be linked to a rhino database that includes horn stockpile and DNA profile information. Private rhino owners must be incentivised to continue protecting rhinos during this period. South Africa must continue to show that it is complying with CITES Resolution Conference 9.14 (Rev. CoP15) to avoid potential punitive measures from Parties and, if a proposal for legalising international trade is to be submitted, South Africa should be prepared before the deadline for submissions for CoP17 in 2016.
Full report: https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/d ... rica_legalisingreport.pdf