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article imageSouth Africa advances plans to make sale of rhino horns legal

By Karen Graham     Mar 12, 2017 in World
South Africa's government is advancing draft legislation that would allow the domestic trade and limited export of rhino horns, alarming conservationists around the world.
The proposed legislation is using a loophole in the regulations to export rhino horns to other countries, only four months after a request from Swaziland to export rhino horns was rejected by the 17th meeting of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
According to CTV News Canada, the draft regulations would allow a foreigner with the proper permits to export for "personal use" up to two rhino horns. However, critics of the plan say that it would be difficult to monitor any exported horns because they would more than likely end up in the commercial market in defiance of global restrictions that protect the threatened species.
South Africa is home to most of the world's rhinos. An international ban on the sale and trade in rhino horns has been in effect since 1977, and South Africa imposed a moratorium on in 2009 when the poaching of rhinos spiked as demand for the horns grew in Asia, particularly in Vietnam.
Rangers and farm workers dehorn a rhino at John Hume's Rhino Ranch in South Africa's North...
Rangers and farm workers dehorn a rhino at John Hume's Rhino Ranch in South Africa's North West province
Mujahid Safodien, AFP
A 30-day period which allowed the public to express their views on the legislation ended on Friday, according to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs. In an email to the Associated Press, they wrote, "The comments will be evaluated, the draft regulatory provisions will be revised based on the comments received, and the process for approval of the final legislation will be set in motion."
Rhino breeders in South Africa believe poaching would be reduced by a regulated trade, and for rhino breeders, this would be advantageous. because most of them have stockpiles of rhino horns waiting to be sold. And for this reason, critics say the legislation favors rhino breeders.
John Hume, a rhino breeder in South Africa says, "Banning the trade in horn has made the horn more and more and more valuable. Had we never banned it, the price of horn would never have got to where it is now."
But Allison Thomson, a South African campaigner against legalization, disagrees with Hume. She says allowing the sale of rhino horns puts South Africa into the position of sending "conflicting messages" about how to it deal with poaching, jeopardizing its wildlife tourism in the country.
"The risk we run at the moment is that if we open up trade and poaching escalates we will have no rhinos in the wild. We will only have rhinos on farms, being farmed like cows," Thomson said. It is estimated that South Africa has some 20,000 rhinos, or 80 percent of all the rhinos in Africa. Asia has several rhino species, many of them already endangered.
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