NGO Save our Rhino says planned rhino horn auctions won’t stop poachers.
Johannesburg - Nine days, 23 hours, 45 minutes and counting. That’s how organisers of the first legal rhino horn auction in South Africa are touting the 500kg sale of horn to potential buyers later this month.

John Hume, the world’s largest rhino horn breeder, says the controversial auction of his rhino horn is being run as an “alternative” approach to conserve rhinos and “in the hopes of preventing rhinos being poached for their horns and to raise money to fund the breeding and protection of rhinos”.

He spends more than $170000 (more than R2.2million) every month on security on his farm in the North West.

But Save our Rhino, in an open letter to Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa on Friday, said there had been a surge in rhino poaching since the publication of the Draft Regulations for the Domestic Trade in Rhinoceros Horn, Notice 74 of 2017.

“This is backed up by increasing reports of rhino poaching incidents and increased confiscations of rhino horn.

“This appears to be affecting not only South Africa, but other range states as well

“It is highly disappointing that South Africa appears to have taken two steps backwards and ignored all research confirming that trade of endangered species or their body parts actually stimulates demand and increases poaching.”

Hume, along with another rhino owner, won his case against the department which overturned the domestic trade in rhino horn moratorium.

Save our Rhino accused Molewa of a “continued failure to act with diligence and professional integrity when communicating her intentions to domestically trade rhino horns”.

Hume is scheduled to hold a subsequent live auction in mid-September.

Save our Rhino asked Molewa to give full clarification on several issues related to the forthcoming trade and auctions and to “consider withholding and/or restricting such information to be an act of political subterfuge designed to circumvent accountability and prevent public interference”.

These questions include whether processes of due diligence would be instated to screen potential buyers and whether background checks be done to validate South African citizenship.

Last month the department said while the website and Facebook advertising for the online auction made no mention of the international trade in rhino horn, “it creates the impression, because it has been translated into Chinese and Vietnamese, that the horns will be available for purchase by international consumers and speculators.

Pelham Jones of the Private Rhino Owners Association said the proposed auction as well as all future sale transactions would “comply with both national and international legislation, that a foreign national may purchase rhino horn in South Africa but may not legally export these horns”.

Saturday Star