Environmental Affairs responds to the Chinese Government decision to lift ban on domestic rhino horn and tiger bone trade

04 November 2018

The Acting Minster of Environmental Affairs, Mr Derek Hanekom, has taken note of the announcement by the State Council of the Peoples Republic of China that the trade and use of rhinoceros, tigers and related products will be authorised for scientific, medical and cultural purposes.

The Minister and the Department became aware of the lifting of the ban through media reports indicating that the State Council had announced on 29 October 2018 that it had lifted a ban on the sale and use of rhino and tiger products under special circumstances and that the sale and use would be regulated and strictly controlled.

From these media reports it appears that the use of rhino and tiger products will be permitted in scientific research, including the collection of genetic material, the exhibition of skins, organs and other tissues from these animals, and the import and sale of cultural relics. The reports further note that the use of rhino horn and tiger bones in medical research or in healing will be limited to farmed rhinos and tigers.

Furthermore, powdered forms of rhino horn and bones from dead tigers can only be used in qualified hospitals by qualified doctors recognized by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

As the department has recently learnt about the lifting of the ban, discussions will need to be held with the People’s Republic of China regarding the announcement.

It is unclear at this stage what the effects of lifting the ban will be on the domestic trade and use of rhino horn in the People’s Republic of China and we will have to carefully monitor whether or not there will be an impact that affects South Africa.

It should be noted however that South Africa has effective actions in place, which are being implemented in terms of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros approach, to combat rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn which have delivered a number of successes.

South Africa subscribes to the principle of sustainable utilisation of natural resources.  It is a right enshrined in our Constitution, but is subject to strict control. Legislative, policy and regulatory processes are in place in South Africa to ensure the domestic trade in rhino horn is strictly controlled and that the prohibition of the commercial international trade by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is not violated. The commercial international trade in rhino horn is and remains prohibited in terms of all international protocols that South Africa is party to, particularly CITES.  

The South African Government remains committed to a well-regulated process implementing its domestic legislation, as well as all CITES provisions, to manage the trade in endangered species, such as rhino, in a manner that is not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

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Albi Modise
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