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The debate on whether or not we should allow international trade in rhino horn should have ended two years ago, when the South African National Biodiversity Institute – the scientific authority advising the Minister and establishing the vital fact base for decision-making – issued their CITES Non-Detrimental Findings in favour of trade as the key strategy for saving rhino from extinction, or thirty years earlier, when the most important rhino conservationists of the last 100 years – the old Natal Parks Board leadership of Dr. Ian Player, Dr. George Hughes, Dave Cook, and their team –told us that legal trade in rhino horn is a ‘must’ if we hope to save these animals for future generations.   But it didn’t end, largely because the discussion is still plagued by myths about CITES bans and animal welfare concerns that are factually incorrect.


A more accurate view of the reality we face should clear the path to saving our rhino and our nation. Thus, our objective must be to sort fact from fiction, and to equip readers to make their own decisions, from an informed base.


Here you will find the 14 most prominent misconceptions, grouped by category into International Law, South African Law, Policy Concerns, Practicality, and Animal Welfare.  Summaries are provided on this page, with detailed discussion on each point found through the links provided.

International Law

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CITES prohibits trade in rhino horn

Trade is fully legal. Right now.

CBOs must register with CITES before they are allowed to sell internationally

Registration is absolutely not required, and export permits are regularly issued to CBOs that have not registered, even in South Africa.

Chinese law prohibits the importation of rhino horn

Chinese law changed in 2018, specifically to stop poaching, by enabling the sale of rhino horn trimmed ethically from captive-bred rhino

South African Law

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Horn exports are only legal if the Minister approves them

In South Africa, only Provinces have the legal power to issue export permits for privately owned horn.  The Minister's thoughts & actions are entirely irrelevant.

An import permit is required before an export can be approved

No import permit is required for the export of rhino horn from a CBO that is registered with its Province 

Policy Concerns

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Some conservationists are still unsure about whether trade in horn would benefit rhino

Amongst qualified and experienced scientists and conservationists, there is no debate. Trade is universally recognized as URGENTLY needed to save these animals from extinction

Trade cannot save animals

Trade is the most successful conservation strategy ever employed.  South Africa has used it better than any other country in history

Trade will encourage poaching

Trade will destroy the business of poaching and make it too high risk to pursue

Trade will harm South Africa's reputation

Trade will restore our SADC colleagues' lost faith in South Africa, and put this country at the forefront of honest & capable conservation

Poaching is the biggest risk to rhino survival

Poaching can be eliminated through wise policies.  This leaves habitat availability as the biggest risk rhino face in Africa, and it is getting worse as trade in horn is delayed

This is a 'white man's issue'. Black South Africans will not benefit from saving the rhino

Conservation is an intrinsically African value.  And it is irresponsible and dishonest to dismiss the benefit that R800 billion dedicated to poverty alleviation would bring to previously disadvantaged communities in South Africa

Practical Concerns

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We cannot produce enough horn to satisfy demand

We produce enough ethical rhino horn to send seven or eight times more horn to Asia than poachers currently provide, all without harming a single animal

Chinese consumers do not want 'farmed' horn

The Chinese market prefers to purchase ethical (or 'farmed') horn, rather than wild horn taken from poached rhino

Animal Welfare

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Rhino in 'Captive Breeding' operations are unhappy

'Captive Breeding' is just a legal term.  Rhino living on such reserves are every bit as 'wild' and happy as their cousins in Kruger

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