On Thursday 26th November 2015, a judge in South Africa ruled to set aside the Government’s 2009 ban on domestic trade in rhino horn.
In his judgment, Judge Legodi said: “The applications by the applicants for the review and setting aside of the moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horns are hereby granted and the moratorium … is hereby reviewed and set aside for substantial non-compliance with consultative and participatory process by the members of sections 99 and 100 of NEMBA (The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act).”
What does this mean for the trade in rhino horn? It means that anyone who owns rhino horn in South Africa will be legally permitted to sell rhino horn to another individual, as long as the horn does not leave the borders of South Africa.
However, any sale of rhino horn will be subject to meeting the appropriate regulatory requirements, as laid out by Edna Molewa from the Department of Environmental Affairs who stated: “It must be emphasised that all trade in rhino horn will be subjected to the issuing of the relevant permits in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No 10 of 2004). In terms of NEM:BA a permit is required to trade in rhino horns and any derivatives or products of horn and the judgment 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.”
It should be noted that trade of rhino horn outside of South Africa (including to key destination markets in Asia) remains illegal.
It should also be noted that the South African Government have immediately appealed the court ruling, resulting in the ruling being suspended until the outcome of the appeal is announced.
What concerns us about this ruling today is: