Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
The time has come for an intensified national debate on the legalisation of rhino horn trade. This year alone, over 232 rhino have been slaughtered in South Africa, with at least 188 killed in the Kruger National Park alone, not to mention the lives lost of those fighting poachers. Every single one of these deaths, both animal and human, has been unnecessary.
It is clear that the current approach by the South African government in response to the onslaught on our rhino has been left wanting, and that other avenues of protecting the species from extinction must be intensely explored.
The DA firmly believes that a framework for discussion into the legalisation of rhino horn trade must be officially tabled in the public domain.
So too, we call on the national government to declare rhino poaching a national disaster so as to access disaster management funds to finance anti-poaching initiatives while the discussions on rhino horn trade continue.
In the 1970s rhinos were listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), banning all international commercial trade. However, since 1994 South African rhino were shifted to Appendix 2, which allowed trade in live animals and trophy hunting, but not for trade in rhino horn.
Renowned South African rhino farmer John Humes cites a number of convincing reasons why rhino horn trade should be legalised, and the DA supports him in his reasoning. This includes protecting consumers from unethical suppliers, poverty alleviation, and of course making poaching syndicates obsolete through controlled trade.
A total ban on rhino horn trade will eventually lead to the complete extinction of the species. A regulated and controlled trade would supply demand and dismantle poaching syndicates through open market pressures. It would also make a considerable contribution to poverty alleviation and open the door for communities to become involved in rhino custodianship and conservation, especially emerging farmers.
Due to rhino horn being a renewable resource as horns grow back within a couple of years of being removed, effective management and harvesting procedures will ensure a regular supply to world markets and could create a sustainable income for South Africa, and preserve the species for future generations.
Instead of constantly reacting to the threat of poaching and poachers in our parks, the option of legalising rhino horn trade must now be actively pursued openly, transparently and frankly – both within South Africa and the world.
South Africa has a world-renowned reputation for its conservation practises, and leading the charge in the legalisation of rhino horn trade will further enhance that status.