Experts on rhino poaching has called on Parliament to consider legalising the trade of rhino horns, saying that the move holds great benefits. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - A team of experts on rhino poaching has called on Parliament to consider legalising the trade of rhino horns, saying that the move holds great benefits for communities. 

A total of 1028 rhinos were poached in South Africa from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. In 2016, 1054 rhinos were poached with a slight decrease of 26 animals.

Rhino conservationist Alan Sara told Parliament’s portfolio committee on environmental affairs that allowing individuals to trade their rhino horn stockpiles would benefit communities and the wildlife industry. 

“There are two huge opportunities in the rhino industry for government that they have to take with both hands. The wildlife industry last year made R80 billion. That is a fact and not an opinion. It produced more than the beef industry in South Africa. There is only a tiny minority of South African population that benefit from this R80 billion,” said Sara.

Between 1 April 2017 and 31 December 2017‚ the Hawks arrested 16 level three to four local buyers and exporters of wildlife traffickers of South-East Asian‚ South African‚ Mozambican‚ Zimbabwean and Kenyan origin.

They also managed to confiscate confiscated 168‚46kg of rhino horn.

Sara said government should use the expropriation of land debate to include the wild life sector, to ensure that everyone benefits from the proceeds of land. 

“The government must give the masses of South Africa the opportunity to benefit from the proceeds of the land. Whether those proceeds come from farming, mining, or real estate doesn’t matter. 

“They need to benefit, and when you have an industry that generates R80 billion in one year, it is a golden opportunity for all communities to benefit from that. You however have to have sustainable use of wildlife which is one of our most profitable industry to benefit the people. There hundred ways in which these communities can benefit,” said Sara.

Currently, Members of the Private Rhino Owners Association facilitates rhino horn trading in the country. The organisation assists both buyers and sellers of legal horns with compliance, Financial Intelligence Center Act and verification of permits. 

Sara said the only sustainable use of the rhino horn would be to allow its trade into the international market. 

“We have enough stockpiles in South Africa to filter into the international market to control the price of rhino horns for 10 years without dehorning one rhino. Natural deaths of rhinos is high, they kill each other or fall over the cliffs and die. You can harvest that horn, if we are allowed to sell that horn , get the wealth. That wealth can go to conservation and also be distributed to the community,” said Sara. 

Political Bureau