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Minister Edna Molewa on the Committee of Inquiry into the feasibility of a legal trade in rhino horn, or not

8 May 2016

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You may recall that the Committee of Inquiry was established as South Africa was experiencing continuously increasing levels of poaching despite the various interventions implemented to address the illegal killing of rhino and the illegal trade in rhino horn. Previous stakeholder engagement processes, particularly the Rhino Issues Management process in 2012, recommended regulated, legal national and international commercial trade in rhino horn as one component of a suite of solutions.

The legalization of commercial international trade as part of the interventions to address the poaching crisis is however a contentious matter and therefore a comprehensive process was required to carefully consider it.

The Chair of the Committee of Inquiry will provide information relating to the processes the Committee of Inquiry undertook to develop its final report.

Chair statement

Thank you Chair, the Committee of Inquiry reported to an inter-departmental Technical Advisory Committee and the Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed by Cabinet to provide guidance on this matter.

The IMC considered the reports of the Committee of Inquiry as well as the Inter-departmental Technical Advisory Committee and formulated recommendations to Cabinet.

In April 2016, Cabinet approved the recommendations made by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) appointed by Cabinet to provide guidance relating to the possibility of proposing a legal, regulated, commercial international trade in rhino horn to CITES COP17.

Cabinet approved the implementation of the following minimum requirements that will create an environment conducive for rhino conservation in South Africa and effectively address rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn, namely:

  • Security, including the adoption and implementation of the National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking;
  • Community empowerment, including the development, adoption and implementation of a Community Empowerment Plan;
  • Biological management, including the adoption of an African rhino range States African Rhino Conservation Action Plan;
  • Responsive legislative provisions that are effectively implemented and enforced, including incentives to rhino owners to support continued investment in the conservation of rhino; and
  • Demand management, including information gathering to enhance our knowledge about demand for rhino horn and identifying the most effective interventions to manage demand.

The various government departments’ required to effectively implement the afore-mentioned recommendations were also identified and specific activities will be identified for inclusion in their respective strategic plans.

With regard to the international trade considerations, it should be noted that the Committee of Inquiry was advised by the IMC to provide various options to be considered by government relating to the international commercial trade in rhino horn.

Commercial international trade consideration is linked to the challenges related to demand from consumer countries and sustainable funding for ongoing efforts to reduce poaching and illegal wildlife trade. 

The proposed solutions to these challenges are the most contentious ones in the rhino conservation context and are also the areas where the evidence base is weak and there is considerable uncertainty regarding the likely success of any of the proposed solutions.

Cabinet considered the four possible options based on different solutions to challenges of demand (demand reduction versus trade) and funding (donor funds, tourism levies, trade).

The four options were:

  • No trade in rhino (including termination of hunting and stockpile destruction), backed by a policy change that bans international trade in key affected species and strongly supports demand reduction
  • Application of current policy, with no consideration of commercial trade; destruction of stockpiles and investment in demand reduction
  • Application of current policy, with no immediate intention to trade in rhino horn, but maintaining the option to re-consider regulated legal international trade in rhino horn when the key requirements identified earlier are met
  • Promote regulated, legal international trade as soon as the necessary requirements are met

The Cabinet also noted the trade mechanisms, but recognised, as indicated by the Committee, that it would not be possible to finalise the institutional design of trade mechanisms without engaging with, and obtaining agreement from, potential trade partners, and on obtaining agreement from government and various stakeholders on their respective roles in the management and control of any trade mechanism.

Cabinet furthermore noted that any potential mechanism to legalise international trade in rhino horn will have to ensure not only a reduction in poaching and the risk of extinction, but also benefit the conservation of free-ranging rhino; secure financing for the expansion of rhino range; address threats in rhino range states and ensure the establishment of governance structures that reduce corruption.

In addition, this mechanism would also have to ensure that marginalised communities neighbouring conservation areas received tangible and sustainable direct and indirect benefits that enhance interest in and protection of live rhino and conservation areas.

The inter-departmental Technical Advisory Committee and the Inter-Ministerial Committee considered the four options in the context of the five key areas that require implementation and recommended the following option to Cabinet:

  • Application of current policy, with no immediate intention to trade in rhino horn, but maintaining the option to re-consider regulated legal international trade in rhino horn when the key requirements identified earlier are met
  • South Africa will therefore not be applying for the opening of a legal, international commercial trade in rhino horn at CITES COP17, which we will be hosting in Johannesburg from 24 September to 5 October 2016.  

To access the statement of the Chair of the Committee of Inquiry, Ms Nana Magomola, follow the link below:

>> Statement of the Chair of the Committee of Inquiry

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