International commercial trade in rhino horn remains prohibited

10 September 2020


The international commercial trade of rhino horn, and derivatives, remains prohibited in terms of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the South Africa’s CITES regulations (2010).

Any claims to the contrary are a misrepresentation of the facts regarding commercial international trade in rhino horn. Any planned commercial trade of rhino horn by private rhino owners could possibly be for domestic trade only.

International commercial trade in rhino horn is, and remain prohibited in terms of the CITES regulations, and as such could not be authorised in terms of any domestic legislation. South Africa cannot, therefore issue permits for international commercial trade of rhino horn or derivatives.  Trying to sell rhino horn internationally for commercial purposes would be in violation of the CITES regulations and the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA).

The domestic trade in rhino horn is subject to the issuance of the relevant permits in terms of NEMBA, its regulations and applicable provincial legislation. Any other international activity involving rhino for non-commercial purposes is subject to the CITES provisions and relevant NEMBA regulations.

In terms of NEMBA, a permit is required to among others possess, transport and trade in rhino horns and any derivatives or products of horn.  Minister further emphasized that the High Level Panel is reviewing among others policy and practice matters of  trade, breeding, hunting and handling of rhinos in South Africa and the panel will make  recommendations to the Minister  on such.

The Department maintains an electronic database that captures extensive details on all individual rhino horns in private and government-owned and continues with its verification programme to ensure that DNA samples have been taken, and that all horns have been measured, weighed, marked, microchipped and captured on the national database. This supports our ongoing efforts to ensure that the Department has full and accurate information on the number of horns in South Africa at any given time and the registered owner of each horn. This is vital to prevent the smuggling of horn out of the country.

For media enquiries contact:
Mr Albi Modise
Tel: 083 490 2871

Editor's note:

The Constitutional Court judgment in April 2017 confirmed a High Court decision in 2015 setting aside the 2009 moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn retrospectively. The order 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. The Environmental Management Inspectors (EMIs) of both the Department of Environmental Affairs and provincial conservation departments monitor compliance with the relevant regulations and requirements.