South Africa's government is proposing to open up domestic trade in rhino horn
Permit scheme to facilitate export of horn for 'personal purposes'
Huge potential for criminal gangs to exploit loopholes
On the 8th February 2017 the South African Government announced plans to legalise "domestic trade...and the export from the Republic of South Africa, of rhinoceros horn, or a part, product or derivative of such rhinoceros horn".
The proposal includes a permitting scheme with several restrictions, including limiting the number of horns traded to two per person, the reason of the horn being traded must be 'for personal purposes', the point of exit from South Africa is restricted OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg, plus many others (see full proposal in link below for full details).
Penalties for anyone trading rhino horn outside of the stated guidelines will face a fine R5 million (£300,000 / $370,000) and / or 5 years in prison.
Based on recent history, Helping Rhinos is concerned that the South African government does not have the ability to manage an effective permitting scheme for the proposed domestic and international trade in rhino horn. The term 'personal purposes' has been exploited in the recent past, most notably in the trophy hunting industry.
We would want to see full operating procedures, with clear roles and responsibilities to ensure the proposal does not open up a number of loopholes that will be exposed by the criminal gangs wishing to trade in rhino horn on a larger scale (as was evidenced in the trophy hunting industry when a number vietnamese sex workers were applying for personal use permits to export rhino hunt trophies out of the country).
We believe that if this proposal is accepted and implemented, criminal gangs will seek opportunities to launder illegally poached horn through the legal 'personal purposes' channels. This will have a devastating effect on the level of poaching of rhino, which as we know, is already at a critical and unacceptable level.
We urge the South African government to withdraw their proposal to legalise trade of rhino horn in this manner, and continue to focus on the protection of rhinos on their land through the implementation of enforceable legislation with meaningful penalties and to eliminate the corruption that is aiding the an unacceptable level of poaching today.