SA mulling rhino-horn trade, says minister

by May 2, 2012Rhino Poaching, Rhinos, Wildlife News

SOUTH Africa is considering whether to approach the international community with a proposal to trade in rhino horn, Environment Minister Edna Molewa told MPs on Wednesday.

Opening debate in the National Assembly on her department’s budget, she said this included engaging “major role players, including international and regional partners (and) potential consumer states”.

Ms Molewa’s remarks come 10 months ahead of the 16th congress of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), set to take place in Bangkok, Thailand, in March next year.

According to reports, South Africa is sitting on an estimated 20-ton stockpile of rhino horn — some of it in private hands and some stored by conservation authorities.

The price of the horn, should the Cites moratorium on trade be lifted, has been estimated at more than R500000 a kilogram.

Ms Molewa has declined to say how much rhino horn is held by government-managed parks and reserves.

“Due to security risks, the department cannot publicly announce the amount of stocks being held by these agencies,” she said earlier this year.

On Wednesday, she said her department was involved in an “extensive” preparatory process ahead of the Cites congress.

“This will include discussions on whether or not to approach the international community with a proposal to trade in rhino horn,” she said.

On the rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, Ms Molewa said 199 rhinos had been killed so far this year.

“We are very, very deeply concerned,” she told the House.

Earlier, briefing journalists at Parliament, the minister said South Africa would not table a document at the next Cites meeting calling for the rhino-horn trade moratorium to be lifted.

“No, not this time around,” she said. “We are still considering all options, as well as probabilities towards that direction. We have not decided yet. Let it be clear. We are still doing some very serious work in analysing whether we need to move in that direction or not.”

Among the things that needed to be done before trade could resume, she said, was “to ensure we get to know who the partners are on the other side”.

Policies had to be put in place “that do not allow any shenanigans to operate in the system”, Ms Molewa said, adding: “There are just too many things to do before we can place the discussion before the conference of parties. We are not yet there.”