S. African MPs support regulated trade mechanism for rhino horns

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South African Members of Parliament (MPs) on Thursday voiced support for the introduction of a strictly limited and regulated trade mechanism for rhino horns.

Only through such mechanism, legal horn from legitimate stockpiles, and not harvested horns, are sourced, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs (PCWEA) said in a statement.

The committee stressed the need to incentivize the strictly limited and regulated trade and possession of rhino as a live commodity.

The statement was issued after members of the committee met in Skukuza, the Kruger National Park (KNP) in northeastern South Africa from Dec. 2 to 4 to get a better understanding of the current situation relating to the illegal killing and conservation of rhinos in the country and to debate and seek possible solutions to the rhino poaching challenges.

The workshop came as the number of rhinos poached for their horns in South Africa increased to 919 since the beginning of this year.

The KNP has born the brunt of the scourge, loosing 560 rhinos during the period, with the provincial figures standing at a total of 359.

The total number of suspected poachers arrested has increased to 316.

The South African government has advocated a feasible model for trade in rhino horns in the broader context of a myriad of interventions being implemented to address the scourge of rhino poaching.

The government says it does not view trade as a panacea for the on-going scourge, but it is part of a number of measures to be implemented.

South Africa, home to over 73 percent of the worlds' rhino population, is preparing a rhino trade proposal for consideration at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016.

Currently, international trade in rhino horn for commercial purposes is prohibited and this prohibition can only be lifted, if agreed by the COP.

To ensure that the parties to CITES are able to make a decision relating to this matter, a proposal must be submitted for consideration by the COP.

In addition to regulated trade mechanism for rhino horns, the PCWEA also proposed a series of measures to protect the endangered species.

These include increased involvement of communities, including community ownership of rhino and benefit-sharing by communities, emphasis on cross-border collaboration, including cross-border enforcement operations to disrupt local criminal networks, enhancing actionable intelligence to enable South Africa to disrupt transnational criminal networks involved in the illegal trade in rhino horn, and implementation of mechanism to increase the conviction rate in rhino-related cases.

South Africa's rhino population will be close to extinction by 2026 if no effective measures are taken, the government warns.

Crime syndicates are believed to be behind growing rhino poaching, fueled by demand for rhino horns which are said to cure all diseases, notably cancer, although there is no scientific evidence to prove this. Endi

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