CAPE TOWN, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- The first legal auction of rhino horns after years of suspension opened in South Africa on Monday despite opposition from the government.
This came after private rhino breeder John Hume won a court victory that allows him to proceed with the auction in South Africa.
The last-minute bid in the Pretoria High Court on the eve of the auction overturned a declaration by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) that it would be unlawful to grant a permit to Hume allowing him to trade rhino horns.
After the opening, bidding will commence on Wednesday to allow registered bidders sufficient time to be informed that the permit will shortly be obtained and the auction will commence as planned.
This is not the first time that Hume has prevailed against the DEA. Earlier this year, he won a case to overturn the almost decade-long moratorium on the sale of rhino horn within South Africa's borders.
But global trade in rhino horns remains prohibited under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Also on Monday, the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) congratulated Hume on the auction.
"We would like to congratulate John Hume for his grit and determination in insisting that his legal rights be upheld," PROA Chairman Pelham Jones said.
Jones called the DEA's obstructionist approach "bizarre and diabolical" in light of the emphatic Constitutional Court ruling earlier this year describing the moratorium on the sale of rhino horn as illegal.
Jones further stated that the upcoming rhino auction will be fully compliant with national legislation and CITES international protocols as foreign buyers are welcome to buy horn, although they may not export it.
However, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have raised concern that domestic trade in rhino horns would lead to an increase in the illegal international trade due to the lack of a regulatory regime in the country.
The South African government last week denied allegations that the country does not have systems in place to ensure that any prospective domestic sale of rhino horns takes place in a strictly regulated manner.
South African authorities have improved their ability to track the movement of rhino horns through the implementation of a national database and systems relating to the marking of rhino horns and genetic profiling, Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said.
South Africa, home to more than 80 percent of the world's rhino population, bears the brunt of rhino poaching, having lost a total of 529 rhinos this year, official statistics show.
The country imposed a moratorium on the trade in 2009 with the aim to curb rhino poaching. But private rhino breeders say the ban has failed to curb poaching.