A judge in South Africa has lifted the ban on rhino horn trading. Though the relaxation of the rules is restricted only for domestic trading, conservationists caution this is an “extremely dangerous move” that would rapidly drive the already endangered species towards extinction.
A South African judge on Thursday lifted a domestic ban on trade in rhino horns. The judge struck down the government ban on the domestic trade in the horns of rhinos that was imposed in 2009. Outraged conservationists and government officials who care for the endangered species have said that the move would significantly intensify the slaughter of rhinos. The species is already on the critically endangered list and lifting any kind of ban on rhino horn, would aggressively push the species towards confirmed extinction within a very short span of time.
Judge Francis Legodi, who struck down the ban, reasoned that the South African government had “failed to properly consult the public before imposing the moratorium in 2009.” He further added that poaching surged to record levels only after the ban was imposed. While noting in his 39-page judgment in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, the judge said,
“What disastrous implications would be brought about by the immediate lifting of the moratorium? I cannot think of any. “
It is a fact that rhinos have been poached in record numbers in recent years. However, the judge noted that before the ban, the number of rhinos poached in 2008 was less than 100. But after the ban poaching surged, peaking last year to 1,215 rhinos killed solely for their horns, reported The Star.
The government has confirmed its intention of appealing about the seemingly disastrous ruling, which came after a couple of South African game breeders had sued the South African government for stifling their business. In fact, those seeking to overturn the ban had reasoned that humanely harvesting horns from rhinos at private ranches and then selling them legally would have driven poachers out of business. Instead, by banning all rhino horn trade, the government indirectly forced people to take drastic steps of killing rhinos to quickly extract the horns, claimed the breeders.
Legal extraction of rhino horn involves sedating the animal and then surgically sawing off the horn, leaving the stump attached to the body. To ensure poachers do not target the rhinos in the wild, the South African Government’s anti-poaching and animal conservation teams often saw off the horns and replace them with fake horns. Though the faux horns are practically useless, the rhinos are saved from certain death. According to Save The Rhinos, the animals use the horns to dig through loose soil while searching for water, protect their territory or while defending calves. Since the sanctuaries eliminate such needs, the rhinos can survive without the horns.
Many allege that the judge refused to see there’s no “domestic market” for rhino horn and majority of the horns are smuggled outside Africa. Speaking about the ruling, Allison Thomson, founder of an anti-poaching group in South Africa, said,
“South Africa does not have a market for rhino horn domestically and the opening of trade locally will only lead to the smuggling of rhino horn by criminal syndicates into the black market in Vietnam and China.”
Though the international ban on rhino horn trade has been in place since 1977, the high demand and prices have kept the trade very much alive. Similar to ivory, rhino horns are in demand for their presumed medicinal properties.
Though the judge may have lifted the ban, South African government was about to propose the same at a meeting in Johannesburg next year of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), reported Yahoo.
Experts warn if the apathy towards the rhinos continues along with the present rate of consumption in China, the creature will disappear for good within the next two years, reported the Daily Mail.
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