CAPE TOWN, April 6 (Xinhua) -- A Constitutional Court order setting aside the moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horns does not mean unregulated trade in rhino horns, Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said on Thursday.
"Whilst we are studying the implications of the order handed down by the Constitutional Court, it should be noted that the court's decision should not be construed to mean that the domestic trade in rhino horn may take place in an unregulated fashion," Molewa said.
She was speaking after the Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed an application by Molewa to overturn a 2015 order by the High Court in Pretoria to set aside a moratorium on domestic trade in rhino horns with immediate and retrospective effect.
Since the moratorium came into effect, the Department of Environmental Affairs has strengthened its laws, regulations and systems to ensure no regulatory loopholes exist with regards to the possession of rhino horns as well as a possible future domestic trade in rhino horns.
The Constitutional Court judgment does not mean that persons are allowed to trade (including selling, donating, or in any way acquiring or disposing of rhino horns) without a permit issued by the relevant provincial conservation department, Molewa said.
In the absence of the moratorium, it must be emphasized that all domestic trade in rhino horns will be subjected to the issuance of the relevant permits, Molewa said.
"It must be furthermore emphasized that this matter does not relate to the international trade in rhino horn for commercial purposes. Commercial international trade in rhino horn is still prohibited in terms of the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)," said Molewa.
In South Africa, home to about 90 percent of the world's rhino population, 1,175 rhinos were poached in 2015.
The government introduced the moratorium on rhino horn trade to curb rhino poaching. But private ranchers say that the moratorium has failed to stop the scourge, and therefore should be lifted.