South Africa’s rhino horn stocks will remain secret due to security fears, amid a poaching crisis that has seen more than 200 animals slaughtered this year, the environment minister said Thursday.
“An inventory of rhino horn that is held by conservation agencies in South Africa has been completed, but due to security risks the Department of Environmental Affairs cannot publicly announce the amount of stocks,” said Minister Edna Molewa.
The stockpile was mostly from animals that had died naturally in the bush with some of the horns confiscated in anti-poaching cases.
The amounts and locations were not released due to fears they would be targeted by criminals due to the high black market demand for horns.
Rhino poaching in South Africa has reached crisis levels, with more than 200 animals killed in the first half of the year and 333 wiped out last year.
A feasibility study on legalising the trade and a global market research project are still to be done and should enable the department to determine if unbanning sales would be a way to control the market and prevent poaching, Molewa said.
“We do not have the legalisation of rhino horn on the cards,” she added in a written reply to a parliamentary question.
“We are conducting a study which must be scientific and indicate the measures to be taken in protecting our rhino from being poached because of the rhino horn.”
The horns are said to fetch tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, to feed an Asian black market for traditional medicine.
In April, South Africa deployed the army to the world-famous Kruger National Park on the border with Mozambique to safeguard the giant reserve’s hard-hit rhino population.