South African Rhino Horn Online Auction Goes Live

Today is a tragic day for the plight of the rhino not only in South Africa but also globally with the launch of an online auction of 264 rhino horns being legally traded within South Africa.

The domestic sale, championed by private rhino owner John Hume, sets a dangerous and precarious precedent for the future of endangered species by reverting back to the belief that wildlife has a value and should be utilized at all cost, ignoring our ethical and moral obligations to fight for a species on the brink of extinction.  This commercial and shortsighted opinion fails to address  the danger of potential repercussions in the internal markets and will further fuel the booming illegal trade, undermining the substantial conservation efforts aimed at demand reduction in consumer countries and species protection across the Africa and Asia.

On Monday The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) issued a statement allowing permits to be issued for the online auction on the following conditions:

  • That the permit holder only sell rhino horn to a person who has a permit issued in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004, authorizing him/her to buy rhino horn from Hume;
  • The permit does not authorize international trade in rhino horn; and
  • The Department must be granted access to the online auction to do the necessary compliance monitoring.

Regardless of the above conditions which will be impossible to monitor and contain from a regulatory and law enforcement perspective, the online ‘domestic’ sale is a total contradiction to the international regulations set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  CITES does not allow for the international trade in rhino horn due to the threat it poses to the species- which, only 11 months ago, was resoundingly supported at the international forum attended by the member states in South Africa itself, despite proposals calling for international sales.

The domestic sale, set for today will exploit loopholes through the laundering of now ‘legal’ rhino horn into the international market through extensive trafficking networks aimed at satisfying the Asian markets and the insatiable demand for rhino horn.

And who will take accountability when, not if, this happens? The Government of South Africa or John Hume himself – neither of which seems concerned by international scrutiny or criticism?

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation will wait with baited breath for the fall out and damning repercussions of the sale but will fight harder, now more than ever, to continue our efforts to protect the worlds remaining rhino populations.