Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The owner of the world’s biggest private rhino herd took court action on Thursday to force the South African government to allow its first online sale of rhino horn, which he aims to hold next week.

John Hume has about 1,500 rhino on his farm southeast of Johannesburg, where he breeds them. He regularly cuts their horns, which grow back, and has built a large stockpile, some 500kg, which he plans to auction after successfully challenging the government rules banning their sale in April.

SA is home to more than 80% of the world’s rhino, whose population has been devastated by poaching for buyers in Vietnam and China, where it is coveted as an ingredient in traditional medicine.

Global trade in rhino horn is banned under a UN convention, which means any horn acquired legally in SA cannot be exported, but conservationists have expressed concerns that domestic buyers could illicitly supply Asian markets.

Hume said in papers to the High Court seen by Reuters that the government was withholding already authorised permits for the sale of 264 horns in the August 21 to 24 auction. A spokesperson for Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said she would oppose Hume’s application, and that no rhino horn trade permits had been issued as yet.

The number of poached rhino in SA fell by 13 to 529 between January and June compared with 2016, a trend welcomed with "cautious optimism" by the government in July. But numbers had surged from 83 in 2008 to a record 1,215 in 2014 to meet burgeoning demand in newly affluent countries such as Vietnam, where the horns are used as status symbols and are believed to contain aphrodisiac properties.

Reuters


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