S.Africa won't seek to legalise rhino horn trade: govt
South Africa will not push to lift the global ban on rhino horn trading, the government said Thursday, despite pressure from some campaigners who say the ban fuels poaching.
Rhino breeders want the Asian demand for rhino horn to be met by horns sawn off anaesthetised live animals, arguing that a legal source of horn could end poaching deaths.
The government's decision came ahead of a meeting in Johannesburg in September of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), where the global ban could be reviewed.
"Cabinet approved the recommendations made by the Committee of Inquiry on the feasibility of trading in rhino horns," said a government statement.
"The committee recommends that the current mode of keeping the country's stock levels be kept as opposed to the trading in rhino horns."
South Africa is home to around 20,000 rhinos, some 80 percent of the worldwide population.
Rhino horn is composed mainly of keratin, the same component as in human nails, but it is sold in powdered form as a supposed cure for cancer and other diseases in Vietnam and China.
Rhino horn can fetch as much as $60,000 (55,000 euros) per kilogramme, more than gold or cocaine.
The World Wildlife Fund welcomes the government announcement, saying "we do not believe that a well-managed legal trade is feasible without negative impacts for wild rhinos".
But Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association, said it was a "severe setback" for the long-term survival of the animal.
"The poachers will certainly be celebrating this decision because it ensures only illegal trade will continue and all benefits going to the criminals," he said.
Further legal battles are expected.
In a case bought by two game breeders, a South African judge in November lifted a domestic ban on trade in rhino horn, alarming conservationists.
The government lost an appeal against the decision, but has said it will take the case to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Nearly 1,200 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa in 2015 in another year of carnage by poachers driven by the soaring price for rhino horn.
Fewer than 100 rhinos were poached in 2008, since when numbers have rocketed. A record 1,215 were killed in 2014.
Many of the armed gangs are based in Mozambique, across the border from South Africa's Kruger National Park.
© 2016 AFP