Rhino Horn Trade In South Africa: Things You Must Know


The Department of Environmental Affairs issued a statement clarifying the confusions surrounding rhino horn trade in South Africa.

Here’s everything they want individuals interested in rhino horn trade in South Africa to know.

1. Rhino horn may not be traded internationally

Noting the misrepresentation of facts associated with rhino horn trade, the department specified that the commercial international trade in rhino horn is and remains prohibited in terms of the international protocols that South Africa is party to, particularly the Convention on International Trade in Species of fauna and flora (CITES).

The Department further specified that the set of draft regulations published for public comment in February 2017 concerning the issue aren’t meant to circumvent any CITES. Acting as such will be tantamount to non-compliance, the Department warned.

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2. Rhino horn sale is only for domestic trade

With the above, the Department related that the planned sale of rhino horn by private rhino owners is for domestic trade only.

However, the domestic trade in rhino horn is subject to the issuance of the relevant permits in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No 10 of 2004) (NEMBA), its regulations and applicable provincial legislation.

“In terms of NEMBA a permit is required to among others possess, transport and trade in rhino horns and any derivatives or products of horn.

“The Constitutional Court judgment in April 2017 confirming the setting aside the 2009 moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn retrospectively does not mean that persons are allowed to trade (including selling, donating, or in any way acquiring or disposing of rhino horn) without a permit issued by the relevant provincial conservation department.

“The Environmental Management Inspectors (EMIs) of both the Department of Environmental Affairs and provincial conservation departments monitor compliance with the relevant regulations and requirements,” the Department buttressed.

For now, application forms for permits to authorise the regulated activities must be submitted in the province in which the applicant intends to carry out the restricted activity (e.g. selling, trade in, buying, giving, donating or accepting as gift, possession, conveying, movement, transport etc.).

3. All rhino horns will be documented

According to the Department, it has developed an electronic database that will capture extensive details of all individual rhino horns in private, government-owned stockpiles and all newly acquired horns. The information will be documented on the database every month.

The Directorate of Biodiversity Compliance and Enforcement is conducting an audit of all existing stockpiles of rhino horn in order to populate the database.

So far, the Directorate has conducted audit inspections of government-owned rhino horn in all provinces and of the privately-owned horn in two provinces.

Also, six provinces have conducted audit inspections of privately-owned horns. And, the Department is currently conducting ad hoc inspections to verify the provincial audits.

Likewise, one of the provinces is still inspecting privately-owned rhino horn stockpiles. Once the inspections and audit are complete, the Department will again, conduct ad hoc inspections to verify the information.

4. Each horn will be tagged with a microchip

 As learnt, the essence of the audit is to ensure that every horn is tagged with a microchip. DNA testing will be conducted on the horns, they will be measured, weighed, marked and captured on the national database.

The Department said the above will ensure it has full and accurate information on the number of horns in South Africa at any given time and the registered owner of each horn.

“This is vital to prevent the smuggling of illegally-obtained horn out of the country,” added the Department.

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Moreso, the Department divulged that it is evaluating the comments received from members of the public and interested parties after the publication of the three draft notices relating to the management of the domestic rhino horn trade.

The notices which were published for public comment were about:

  1. Draft regulations to regulate/control the domestic trade in rhino horn;
  2. The prohibition of the intentional powdering of shaving of rhino horn and the domestic sale and export thereof;
  3. The listing of the Eastern Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) as a protected species in South Africa.

Once all comments have been considered and evaluated, the Department will start a motion for approval of the final legislation. If approved, it will be published in the Gazette for implementation and the commencement date announced.