South Africa will allow rhino horns to be harvested domestically after a seven-year hiatus, a court ruled this week.
The Supreme Court of Appeal rejected the bid by the government to keep the ban, which was imposed to reduce poaching, in place. The ruling does not apply to international ban on rhino trading, which is still in place.
Rhino de-horning has been banned since 1977 among the 182 member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), the organization that runs the international wildlife trade. However, CITES only governs trade between countries; it does not apply to domestic trading.
South Africa is home to the world’s largest rhinoceros population, which includes almost all the world’s 20,000 white rhinos, states National Geographic.
Rhino horns are made of keratin, the substance that makes up hair and nails. In South Africa, rhinoceros are reared like cattle in farms and their horns are shaved off. Rhino horns grow back if they are cut above the root.
Some even believe de-horning rhinos may even save their lives eventually as it would deter poachers from killing them for their horns.
Yet, South Africans themselves believe there is hardly any market for the rhino horn inside the country. But in East Asia, it’s another matter. In countries like China and Vietnam, rhino horns are prized because of their claims of curing headaches and even cancer.
And hence, critics believe legalization would only fuel poaching and, considering the level of corruption in the country, open a way for unscrupulous criminals to smuggle the products out of South Africa.
The court’s verdict came just a few months ahead of an international wildlife trade to be held in Johannesburg.