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Rhino horn on the auction block in South Africa

22 / 08 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

South Africa’s first “legal auction rhino horn auction” opened Monday online, amid a global rhino poaching crisis. The auction tests the ramifications of an April 2017 court decision to lift a 2009 moratorium on the country’s domestic rhino horn trade. The sale of rhino horn across international borders has been banned under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, or CITES, since 1977. John Hume, a businessman-turned-game rancher, plans to sell 264 rhino horns. His ranch in the province of Mpumalanga in eastern South Africa is home to some 1,500 white (Ceratotherium simum) and black (Diceros bicornis) rhinos. Fewer than 5,000 black rhinos (pictured here) remain in Africa. Photo by Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay Hume and other proponents of the auction say it will provide valuable funding to protect the animals. Others, including conservation NGOs, worry that legal trade only perpetuates demand and could result in further escalations in poaching. A 2016 study in the journal Current Biology predicted that a similar legalization of the international ivory trade wouldn’t quell poaching because of the issues that governments would likely have in keeping the legal and illegal supplies separate. The immediate concern is that “horn from this sale will leak into the illegal market and be transported to end-user countries, primarily Vietnam and China,” said Cathy Dean, CEO of the London-based NGO Save the Rhino. China is the world’s biggest market for rhino horn, where it’s used in traditional medicine. A recent investigation by the Elephant Action League found that…

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