An auction of rhino horns from the stockpiles of the world’s biggest private breeder was to go ahead yesterday after a South African court ordered that the government release permits for them.
The sale of about 500kg of horns by John Hume, who has more than 1,500 rhinos, was scheduled to run from yesterday through Thursday after he successfully challenged the South African Department of Environmental Affairs’ refusal to hand over the permits that it had granted to him, enabling the sale.
The court ruled in his favor on Sunday.
The Constitutional Court in South Africa, which has the world’s biggest population of the endangered odd-toed ungulates, lifted a local ban on trade in April, which means auctions can take place provided buyers and sellers hold permits, and the horns stay in the country after the sale.
More than 1,000 of the animals have been slaughtered each year since 2013 in South Africa, according to Save the Rhino International, a London-based charity.
Demand has climbed in nations including China and Vietnam because of a belief that the horns can cure diseases such as cancer.
Environmental groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare say legal horn sales create more incentive for poaching. International trade remains banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Harvesting rhino horns is not harmful to the animals and international trade is needed to adequately control poaching, Hume said.
“It is the only solution that will save our rhino, but unfortunately the world is apparently determined not to see this,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions.
The proceeds of the auction will go toward protecting the herd, which costs him in excess of US$170,000 monthly to defend from poachers.
The horns fetch as much as US$95,000 a kilogram in Asia.
While no commercial international trade of horns is allowed, international non-commercial export is legal subject to the issuing of permits by CITES, wildlife activists said.
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