Rhino horn – to trade or not to trade?

Trading in rhino horn is a contentious issue with fiercely emotional undertones. Regulating a trade in any high value natural product is difficult at the best of times; just take a look at abalone, exotic pets and shark fin. Establishing laws to regulate and control the selling and trading of rhino horn is the ‘easy’ part. The hard part; can we police the rules? Community buy-in is crucial, but the inability to enforce the new regulations is paramount. JB

A rhino trade conference has resolved to act against any proposals to legalise rhino horn trade.

“No matter what side of the trade debate we’re on, what we all want is for the poaching to stop,” said Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching (Oscap) director Allison Thomson.

“We’ll have to agree to disagree on the trade issue, but make no mistake, we’re serious about working hard, both domestically and internationally, to put a stop to any proposals to legalise rhino horn trade.”

The Oscap conference was held on Wednesday and Thursday in Pretoria.

Thomson said the conference ended on a positive note with participants resolving to ensure that all South Africans were made aware of the risks associated with legalising rhino horn trade.

Representatives from the Environmental Investigation Agency were also present.

“We need to learn lessons from the ivory trade debacle,” said the agency’s Mary Rice.

“You don’t legalise a high-value product like ivory and put it in the hands of hundreds of millions of people and then wonder why elephant poaching has gone off the charts. The same is true for rhino horn.”