Since the establishment of the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) a specialist chamber of WRSA in late 2009, we have objected to the trade Moratorium introduced earlier that year by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). The objection was based on a breach of our Constitutional Rights to ‘Sustainable Utilization’ as well as the manner in which the Moratorium was promulgated. Despite numerous approaches to the Minister we were unsuccessful in having the Moratorium lifted and finally two PROA members; Johan Kruger and later John Hume decided to take the Minister to court to have the Moratorium declared invalid and to be set aside.
Despite the successful legal actions of Kruger and Hume, winning every round of court cases including in the Supreme Court of Appeal, the Minister each time took the matter on appeal to a higher court and ultimately to the Constitutional Court where we still await a ruling (PROA is the 4th respondent in the case).
As an outcome of the Committee of Inquiry (CoI) and subsequently one of the options emanating from the Rhino Lab, the need for domestic trade was to be reviewed. PROA has been working on a draft Trade Proposal which will be workshopped with members in coming weeks and presented at the PROA AGM during the WRSA conference on the 24th March for formal adoption.
Gazette Notice 74 describes the Draft Regulations for Domestic Trade in Rhino Horn which will allow for the legal trade of rhino horn in South Africa on the preconditions of TOPS compliance by both the seller and buyer, as well as the provision for a foreign national to export 2 horns for personal purposes. The Notice calls for public comment within 30 days from the publication date of 8th February 2017. The PROA Board are drafting a formal response which will be circulated to owners as well as the WRSA executive for comment prior to submission. This document will address key issues within the proposed regulation and will motivate the essential need for the right to trade based on rhino conservation as well as the need to mitigate management costs such as security, currently costing over R400 million a year for private reserves alone.
Sadly the media with the AR NGO’s have run sensational and often inaccurate articles attacking this important Gazette Notice with total disregard to the needs of Rhino owners or true rhino conservation bodies. What is of extreme importance is this Notice is not written for the sole benefit of Private Reserves but can be used by Provincial as well as National Reserves. What has been misunderstood is the existing rights under CITES for a foreign national to have in their possession under the definition of ‘personal purpose’ rhino horn, conditional that they have an import permit from their host country as is provided for with hunting trophies as well as an export permit from SA and TOPS compliance with Possession Permits.
PROA welcomes this positive announcement from the Department, as it will without doubt bring confidence back to rhino conser-vation and help support private rhino owners who not only carry the conservation burden of a third of the national population (more than the rest of Africa combined) with zero government assistance or up until now incentives. A concept trade method is being finalized and will be circulated to owners shortly for further discussion and adoption at the WRSA Conference.