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Questions raised after ban lifted on local rhino horn trade

The High Court ruling has been met with mixed reaction.

FILE: A baby rhino playing in the mud at the Rhino Orphanage in Limpopo. Picture: Christa Van der Walt/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Questions have been raised as to whether there is a domestic market for rhino horn after the High Court in Pretoria lifted the ban on local trade.

The Environmental Affairs Department says it will appeal Thursday's ruling.

There's been mixed reaction among rhino conservationists with some describing it as a breakthrough in conservation and others saying it will lead to a huge increase in

poaching.

Former South African National Parks (SANParks) CEO Mavuso Msimang says he is not convinced there's demand for rhino horn domestically.

"You don't know the market. You know generally that it's in East Asia, China, Vietnam and places like that, but no one has stepped forward yet, because of the ban."

At the same time, the Environmental Affairs Department has warned that the judgment does not extend to the international trade in rhino horn for commercial use, and this is still prohibited.

However, WildAid South Africa's Adam Welz says he is concerned that the judgment will set a precedent to lift the international ban.

"In turn it could create enormous consumer demand, which would turn our current poaching problem into a true poaching nightmare."

Rhino owners argue the legalisation of the domestic trade in rhino horn will create revenue for conservation and security.

APPEAL

The department says it must still study the High Court's judgment before it can file its application for leave to appeal.

Welz says government needs to do more to reduce the demand for rhino horn internationally.

"The South African government hasn't been clear enough with the rest of the world that rhino horn does not cure any serious disease."

But private rhino breeder John Hume says there will always be a demand for rhino horn and therefore there must be change in the way the country supplies it, to reduce poaching.

"It is not the demand for rhino horn that kills our rhino, it's the way we supply that demand. We supply that demand from dead rhino - that's how we're supplying it now."

The department has warned that the judgment does not mean that there will be unregulated trade in the absence of the moratorium.

Meanwhile, the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) has applauded the ruling, saying it can now legally sell stockpiles of horn to create revenue for conservation .

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