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rhino horn

Analysis: South Africa Court Lifts Ban on Rhino Horn Trade

Judge Francis Legodi of the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa yesterday set aside a moratorium on the in-country rhino horn trade, causing consternation in conservation circles worldwide. Two prominent wildlife farmers (including John Hume, the world’s largest rhino owner) had applied to the court to overturn the moratorium, which they claimed was irrational, unreasonable and a violation of their constitutional rights.

The moratorium was imposed in 2009 by the environment ministry because of its view that the domestic trade was providing a loophole through which poached horn was flowing into international trafficking networks. Supporters of the moratorium argue that because there is no substantive consumer market for rhino horn in South Africa, there is little incentive for South Africans to trade horn unless it is ultimately being sold on highly profitable Asian black markets. 

Judge Legodi set aside the moratorium because of procedural errors made by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) just prior to it coming into effect and not because he agrees with the wildlife farmers’ substantive arguments regarding the rationality, reasonableness and constitutionality of the moratorium. 

In crude terms, the judge struck down the moratorium on technicalities, not because he found the rhino farmers’ core arguments to be valid.

Success! California Passes Anti-Ivory Bill

On Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown made history by signing into law AB 96, crucial legislation that if successfully enforced will shutter the ivory and rhino horn trade in the Golden State! 

Though California has long restricted the ivory trade, carvings and other ivory products imported before 1977 have been legal to sell. As a result, the state’s ivory 
market has provided a cover for the laundering of ivory from recently poached elephants, as legal markets do in Hong Kong and other ivory trading hubs around the world. 

"With the passage of AB 96, California is leading by example in making the ivory and rhino horn trade a thing of the past," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said of Gov. Brown's signing of the bill, co-authored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senator Ricardo Lara. "The new law will make enforcement a far easier matter and sends a clear signal to the rest of the world that ivory and rhino horn have no value here. We thank Governor Brown for his support and call on all US states to join California, New York and New Jersey in banning this destructive trade." 

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Rhino Horn Demand in China, 2012-2014

Chinese consumer awareness of the rhino horn trade, 2012-2014.

Record Number of Rhinos Killed in South Africa Last Year

Poachers killed a record number of rhinos in South Africa last year, according to government figures released Thursday (January 22). A total of 1,215 rhinos were poached in 2014 — ten times the number killed in 2009. During the first three weeks of 2015, 49 rhinos have already been poached in South Africa. 

Although rhinos were recovering in Africa since 1993, increasing demand across China and Vietnam in recent years is reversing that trend. Belief in its purported health benefits, including treatment for cancer, fever reduction and other health problems, remains relatively high in Vietnam, despite the fact that rhino horn is composed of compressed hair and keratin, the same protein found in fingernails. 

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