South Africa’s Constitutional Court has removed a moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn.
A global ban in the horn trade, which is regulated by a U.N. convention, remains in place, which means horn acquired legally in South Africa cannot be exported from the country.
South Africa has more than 80 percent of the world’s rhino population with about 18,000 white rhinos and close to 2,000 black rhinos, which is why it has been at the frontline of the horn poaching crisis involving global crime syndicates.
The court action was initiated by private rhino ranchers and other associations, who say they need to sell horn to afford spiraling security costs which include armed patrols, helicopters and electric fencing.
Rhino horn can be harvested as it grows back and it can be removed from a tranquilized animal.
Conservationists have expressed concerns that domestic buyers could also illicitly supply markets in Vietnam and China, where demand for rhino horn – coveted as an ingredient in traditional medicine – has triggered a wave of poaching.