On 10 February South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs introduced the ‘Committee of Inquiry’ tasked with investigating the feasibility of a trade in rhino horn. The 21-member task team will look into technical and strategic aspects of the possible trade and has to submit its report to government before the end of the year.
The Committee which includes conservationists, scientists and immigration authorities, is also tasked with identifying additional measures to curb the illegal killings, including enhanced intelligence to break up syndicates.
South Africa emphasised that the country has not taken a position on the issue of legalising the trade in rhino horn and will not do so until the Committee has completed its work and presented its findings.
If South Africa decides to pursue a legal rhino horn trade, it will have to receive a two-thirds majority support from member states at the next Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference, which the country will host in 2016.
However, there has been controversy over the selection of the Committee’s members, with South Africa’s Democratic Alliance Party calling for the immediate removal of two politicians (Chairperson Nana Mangamola and senior panellist Lourence Mogakane) due to perceived questionable credentials and histories of alleged impropriety.
Read more about the proposition to legalise the trade in rhino horn on our thorny issues section.