Regulated rhino horn trade could help curb poaching - Molewa

Pretoria – Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says the establishment of a well-regulated international trade in rhino horn could help to curb rhino poaching, if implemented in conjunction with all the other interventions to root out the practice.

“We will have to work in partnership with stakeholders and experts to ensure a feasible model for trade is proposed at the next COP [to CITES] in South Africa, with due consideration of all the views expressed by interested and affected stakeholders in rhino conservation,” said Molewa during a briefing on Wednesday.

Cabinet has approved the development and submission of a proposal to the 17th Conference of Parties of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), scheduled to take place in 2016 in South Africa, to introduce regulated international trade in rhino horn.

Molewa said discussions on a possible legal trade, as part of South Africa’s long-term conservation strategy for rhinos, were initiated at the 16th COP to CITES.

The minister said South Africa had the means to make rhino horn available without impacting on the species, and the implementation of a regulated trade system would help to achieve that.

Speaking at the same briefing, the Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation at the Department of Environmental Affairs, Fundisile Mketeni, said government rhino horn stockpiles stood at 16 437kg, while private sector stockpiles were 2 091kg.

While the proposal for the sale of rhino horn is yet to be finalised, Mketeni said the money made from rhino horn sale would be used for conservation, research and community participation. He said they were hoping to have a "once-off" sale of the horns.

“We need to go and clear the stock we have. We would like to sell the horns as a whole. It will depend on the trading partner because they know better [where] there is demand. What we seek to address now is the black market, which [has] demand because there is usage out there,” Mketeni said.

Park fence

Meanwhile, Molewa said South Africa was still working closely with neighbouring Mozambique on the issue of re-erecting the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park fence in a bid to stop poachers from entering the country.

When the park was officially declared in 2002, 20 metres of the fence separating the Kruger National Park (KNP) from the Limpopo National Park (LNP) in Mozambique was cut down.

Many rhino poachers are believed to enter South Africa from Mozambique in the area where the border fence between KNP and LNP was removed to allow the development of the multi-national the park.

KNP has borne the brunt of rhino poaching, and Mozambique is also experiencing a problem of elephant poaching.

Molewa said Mozambique has reported that they have funding available to begin moving communities who are still residing in the park.

“Our plan was to re-erect the fence when there [was no one living there]. The agreement was that those communities must be removed and Mozambique now has funding by international donors to remove these communities,” said Molewa.

She said there was commitment from both parties to re-erect the fence. – SAnews.gov.za