PRETORIA, South Africa is in the process of conducting an audit of all existing stockpiles of rhino horn in the country an effort to prevent the smuggling of illegally-obtained horns out of the country, says Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Addressing the 6th Annual Rhino Conservation Awards ceremony on Monday, she said the audit would ensure that the country had full and accurate information on the number of horns in South Africa at any given time, as well as the registered owner of each horn. An electronic database which will capture details on all individual rhino horns in private and government-owned stockpiles as well as all newly acquired horns is currently being developed.

South Africa remains committed to a well-regulated process that manages the trade in endangered species such as rhino in line with domestic legislation, as well as all Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) provisions,” Molewa said.

This includes firstly the release for public comment of a set of draft regulatory measures focusing primarily on the domestic trade, but also including specific provisions relating to the export of rhino horn for non-commercial purposes.”

In order to buy or sell rhino horn domestically one needs a permit, which is issued under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 2004 (NEMBA), as well as the applicable provincial conservation legislation.

Prior to legal export, the horn must have been subjected to DNA profiling; must be marked by means of a microchip and a ZA-serial number; the information of the owner of the horn; information relating to its markings must have been recorded in the national database; and the exporter will have to have a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) export permit.

This permit also needs to make provision for the export as a Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) specimen, to be endorsed at the port of exit.

The Environmental Management Inspectors (EMIs), as well as those of the provincial conservation departments will continue to monitor compliance, said Molewa, who emphasised that the commercial international trade in rhino horn remains strictly prohibited under the CITES.

We as government are doing everything within our means to ensure that we have closed any possible loopholes that could pave the way for a circumvention of CITES regulations, she said.

Other milestones which the department has recorded include a Community Rhino Ambassadors programme and a Rhino Guardian project that was launched in the Kruger National Park in January 2017 with the support of the Peace Parks Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund South Africa.

We are also in the process of finalizing an Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) ranger training curriculum, she said.