A seven year ban on the domestic trade of rhino horn in South Africa has been lifted, an industry group has said, after a government bid to protect the ruling was dismissed by the country’s Supreme Court of Appeal.
“Legal finality has now been achieved,” Pelham Jones, chairman of South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association told Reuters.
There are around 6,200 rhinos in private hands, according to the association, around a third of the national population.
South Africa’s ministry for environmental affairs has not yet responded publicly to the judgement but has said it is considering the implications of the verdict.
Sources told Reuters that one possible line of action the department could take is to change legislation or to make the issuing of permits for buying, selling and possessing rhino horn so onerous that domestic trade is effectively stifled.
The court’s decision has no bearing on the ban of international trade in rhino horn, though the demand from Asian countries for the animal’s horn has led to thousands of rhinos being killed in recent years as demand poaching has risen significantly.
Rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine but has increasingly become a status symbol for people to demonstrate wealth and success. According to Save The Rhino, there has been a surge in demand for the horns in Vietnam, where it is used for hangover cures and as treatment for terminal illnesses among other uses.