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After learning that SA just made trading rhino horns legal - I wrote to our trusted partner in South Africa, Clarke Smith - CEO, Nambiti Private Game Reserve.  He very kindly allowed us to share this explanation with our Over And Above Africa members: 

Hi Kerry

It is terrible, the rate of rhino poaching just seems to keep escalating. It is going to reach a stage where it is just out of control. You will note that it is State Parks that are just getting hammered. Too sad, but we have to continue looking after our rhino at Nambiti as best we can. 

Maybe my perspective is a bit different to yours because we are used to such dreadful PR with corruption, a high crime rate etc, but our Constitutional Court over turning the moratorium on the trade in rhino horn imposed by the Government does not mean the end of the road.

This is not a new law that has been passed as the trade in rhino horn was legal in SA until the Government imposed a ban on that. A few rhino owners then took that decision to Court and had it successfully overturned recently. Remember this only applies internally in SA as in terms of CITES rhino horn cannot be traded between countries and for any owners to be able to sell a rhino horn in South Africa they would have to apply for and obtain permits from the Government. If any permits are granted they will come with strict criteria. Also remember that every legal rhino horn is clearly identified by being tagged, marked, DNA samples are taken, a microchip implanted, pictures taken and the measurements recorded.  This is not going to be a free for all because any horn can be traced back to its original legal owner and if a horn is found in the wrong hands the legal owner could get into a lot of trouble. 

I do not know what the best answer is - to allow the trade in rhino horn or not. Ideally the best solution would be if there was no demand for rhino horn. Whether we will ever achieve that and convince people who have been using rhino horn as part of their culture for decades to stop using it, I am not convinced about. It is worth trying but what I do know is that what we are currently doing now is not working .

Our rhino in State Parks are getting decimated and protecting rhino that are privately owned is costing those people or organizations a lot of money. I think everyone needs to be quoting genuine facts and studies and not just repeating what someone else might have said. I would really like to see a balanced study undertaken by a group of independent economists to determine whether the rhino horn that is in stock piles and that can be harvested from rhino populations would fulfill the ongoing demand for horn through a controlled sales organization.

Then there are people in Hong Kong that can apparently make a perfect replica of a rhino horn with 3D printers. All food for thought. I don’t know, but we need to think out of the box and people who call themselves conservationists should be trying to find each other instead of knocking each other. 

Anyway I am off to Nambiti till the end of the Easter Weekend , which should be great. 

Clarke Smith - Nambiti Private Game Reserve