Date: 15 April 2017 By: Isabel Venter
What action is the Department of Environmental Affairs going to take now that the domestic trade in rhino horn have been legalised?
This is the question after last week’s Constitutional Court ruling that it would not hear an appeal by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DoE) against a high court decision forcing the lifting of the 2009 moratorium on local trade in rhino horn. Musina based attorney Mr Hennie Erwee last Wednesday confirmed that the court rejected the DoE’s appeal, and ordered them to foot the legal bill.
The ruling was in favour of private rhino owners, and now makes it legal to buy and sell rhino horn within South Africa.
This week the DoE, after giving the matter some consideration, confirmed that their directorate for biodiversity compliance was in the process of counting all the existing stockpiles of rhino horn, both in government and private hands. The DoE further confirmed that a permit system for the local sale and possession of rhino horn was and is still in place.
“It should be noted that the court’s decision should not be construed to mean that the domestic trade in rhino horn may take place in an unregulated fashion,” said the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa.
According to DoE spokesperson, Mr Albi Modise, the environmental management inspectors of both the DoE and provincial departments are busy monitoring permit compliance. “The department has developed an electronic database that will capture extensive details of all individual rhino horns stockpiles and all newly-acquired horns, which will be entered into the database monthly,” explained Modise. This entails that a horn must be tagged with a micro-chip, DNA tested, measured, weighed and marked into a national database.
According to the NEMBA Act (National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004), a permit is required to possess, transport and trade in rhino horns and any derivatives or products thereof. “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,” explained Molewa.
Application forms applying for authorisation of the regulated activities must be submitted in the province in which the applicant intends to carry out the restricted activity (for example selling, trade in, buying, giving, donating or accepting as gift, possession, conveying, movement, transport etc.). Most importantly, it must be emphasised that this matter does not relate to the international trade in rhino horn for commercial purposes. Commercial international trade in rhino horn is still prohibited in terms of the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Isabel joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in 2009 as a reporter. She holds a BA Degree in Communication Sciences from the University of South Africa. Her beat is mainly crime and court reporting.