“The department, as part of the outcomes of the Rhino Summit held in October last year, has commissioned a feasibility study on the viability of legalising trade in rhino horn in South Africa,” department spokesperson Albi Modise told African Eye News Service on Friday. “The terms of reference for the study have been published and a service provider will be appointed shortly.”
He said market research would also be done into global rhino horn markets.
He said it was already a known fact that the market for rhino horns was in the Middle and Far East.
“We are not sure about [other] countries or clients who would be interested in buying the horns,” he said.
Funds raised from the sale of government-owned rhino horn stockpiles would be used for rhino conservation, he said.
Modise said it was also important to locate black market traders and shut them down. He was adamant that the war against rhino poaching could be won.
Chair of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa Andrew Rossaak has supported the initiative.
“We really support…research [efforts] because there will be a clear understanding of the demand of horns overseas,” said Rossaak.
Rossaak agreed that funds raised through legal rhino horn trade could be used to protect rhinos against poaching.
Last week, South African and Vietnamese officials agreed to draw up a Memorandum of Understanding and collaborate, amongst others, on natural resource management, wildlife protection and law enforcement.
The bi-lateral meeting focussed, in particular, on rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn.
Since January 1, poachers have killed at least 281 rhinos in South Africa.
Dwea minister Edna Molewa has reported that only about 18 800 white rhino and 2 200 of the endangered black rhino remain in South Africa.
She said 155 suspected rhino poachers were arrested this year. Sixty-five arrests were in the Kruger National Park.