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Media briefing from Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs on the approval of the Rhino Trade Proposal

Date: 4th July 2013

South Africa is a Party and founding member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a trade convention that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The aim of the convention aligns with, and reinforces the principle of sustainable utilisation, which is enshrined in the Constitution and the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act as an integral part of biodiversity conservation.

Due to sustainable utilisation and adaptive management practices, South Africa has developed and maintained a proud conservation record, and communities have contributed to the conservation of species while benefiting financially from the restoration and protection of species. Ironically, the very success of our national conservation effort which has resulted in over 73% of the worlds’ Rhino population being conserved in our country has, in turn, resulted in South Africa being targeted by international criminal Rhino poaching syndicates.

South Africa is committed to further enhance its role as a global  conservation leader and strengthen its role in influencing decisions and decision making processes of  CITES parties to ensure that this trade convention fulfils all  its objectives.

The on-going illegal killing of rhino has highlighted the need to take action in terms of addressing demand for rhino horn. In March this year, we were part of the 2 000 delegates from 178 countries at the 16th Conference of Parties of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Thailand.

Prior to our departure to the CITES COP 16 we launched an international discussion on the future of South Africa’s rhino population, particularly the issue of legal trade in rhino horn, or not. During the COP, South Africa engaged various countries on the issue of rhino conservation, rhino security and rhino trade.

The establishment of a well-regulated international trade could assist in this regard, if implemented in conjunction with all the other interventions to curb rhino poaching.

To this end, Cabinet approved the development and submission of a proposal to the 17th conference of parties to CITES, scheduled to take place in 2016 in South Africa, to introduce regulated international trade in rhino horn. This decision is informed by recognition of the contribution of biodiversity to our country’s sustainable development imperatives. Furthermore during the 16th COP to CITES, discussions relating to a possible trade, as an integral part of South Africa’s long term conservation strategy for rhinos, were initiated.

We will have to work in partnership with stakeholders and experts to ensure a feasible model for trade is proposed at the next CoP in South Africa, with due consideration of all the views  expressed by interested and affected stakeholders in rhino conservation.  Our appeal is that this should not be viewed in isolation from all our endeavours to save our rhinos.

South Africa cannot continue to be held hostage by the syndicates slaughtering our rhinos. We do have the ability to make this scarce resource available without impacting on the species, through the implementation of a regulated trade system. In addition, this will assist us in further promoting the conservation of the species and growing the population in South Africa and other range States.

Our government recognizes the role of the private sector and the NGO community in the protection of this valuable heritage and commit to working together with all partners in maintaining our successful conservation history.

The total number of rhino poached in South Africa since the beginning of the year has increased to 461.

For more information on the latest statistics, please click on the link below:

https://www.environment.gov.za/rhinopoachingupdate_july2013

For media queries contact Albi Modise on 083 490 2871

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL  AFFAIRS ON 3 JULY 2013

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