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Rhino horn ruling could reduce demand on black market

The Private Rhino Owners Association says legalising the trade will save the animals.

The private rhino owners association says the moratorium on trade was grossly ineffective when it comes to protecting rhino. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - The Private Rhino Owners Association says legalising the domestic trade in rhino horn is a breakthrough in saving the animals.

The association was a co-defendant in today's High Court ruling in Pretoria, which lifted the ban on the trade in South Africa.

The Environmental Affairs Department says it intends to appeal the decision and once the application is finalised, the judgment will be suspended.

Judge Frans Legodi today granted an application brought by two game farmers, who called for the removal of the ban.

Legodi found the 2009 act, which was imposed without public consideration, should be reviewed.

The private rhino owners association says the moratorium on trade was grossly ineffective when it comes to protecting rhino.

Spokesperson Pelham Jones today's judgment will allow private owners and government farms to sell the rhino horn it has in reserve, creating revenue for conservation and security.

He says while today's judgement won't collapse illegal trade completely, it will reduce this.

"If you are legally able to provide and meet market demand, it certainly reduces pressure on your wild population."

TRADE SUBJECT TO PERMITS

Meanwhile, the department's spokesperson Albi Modise says all rhino horn trade is subjected to the relevant permits.

"All trade of rhino horn should be subjected to the issuing of permits by the relevant authorities, in this instance, largely driven and led by the provinces."

The department clarified that the judgment does not relate to the international trade in rhino horn for commercial use, as this is still prohibited.

It has also welcomed the arrest of 12 suspected rhino poachers in Gauteng and North West this week.

MIXED REACTION

At the same time, there's been mixed reaction among rhino conservationists following today's High Court ruling, with some describing it a momentous judgment and others saying it will lead to a massive increase in poaching.

Private rhino breeder in Limpopo John Hume says the only way to save the animals in the next ten years is to lift the ban on stock piles of horn to create revenue.

"The cost of security has rocketed sky high."

Former SANParks CEO Mavuso Msimang says there is no doubt the 2009 ban on the trade has failed to successfully stop rhino poaching as intended.

"It's driven underground."

But Wild Aid South Africa's Adam Welz says it will be difficult to control any form of trade, and this will lead to a huge spike in poaching.

"There will be no way the farmers here could supply that enormous volume of rhino horn and then the only way that people get it is through more poaching."

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