The South African Supreme Court has ruled that the ban on the domestic sale of rhino horns is to be put to an end.
It’s a controversial move, because South Africa is home to many of these wild creatures that already suffer from poaching problems. As a result, many of these creatures are protected in sanctuaries that are protected by armed guards to prevent poaching attacks.
The ruling does not affect international trade of rhino horns, which is still illegal at this point in time, but after the ruling, domestic sale is legal and rhino horn can be kept, sold, or traded to whoever finds them valuable.
Of course, where one method of sale is now legal, it may open Pandora’s box and lead to a surge in sales, not only domestically, but also internationally. For this reason, there is a lot of controversy over the ruling and it could put many rhinos’ lives at risk.
Many times, poachers kill a rhino and dig its horns out by the root, leaving nothing but a carcass with a blood pool at the scene of the heinous crime. It is possible to harvest these horns without hurting the creature; the problem is, poachers don’t bother with the effort and kill the animals instead. When removed correctly, the horns can actually grow back.
Anti-poaching efforts in South Africa are stronger than ever, however this court ruling seems like a step in the opposite direction. On the other hand, anyone participating in the sale or purchase of rhino horn will need to have a permit so the government can keep track of the flow of goods.
The South African government has a stockpile of rhino horns itself, however the amount of stockpile hasn’t been revealed to the public. Estimates, according to Reuters, place the government’s stockpile at around 6 tonnes, while the state probably has around 25 tonnes in its possession.
Illegal international trade of rhino horn is popular, especially to Asia, because it’s believed to have medicinal properties and is believed to be a cure for cancer. On the other hand, because the horn of a rhino is made from keratin and is much like human fingernails, these properties are highly unlikely.
Poaching can be blamed for the rarity of the Sumatran Rhino, which is nearing extinction due to a surge of poachers who want the horns in recent years.
Nevertheless, the court's decision seems to be driven from an economical perspective, and not an ecological one.