The legal environment for the trade of Rhino horn in South Africa

The international trade in rhino horn has been banned since approximately 1977 by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This is an international treaty between the member states who have signed the Convention. CITES is however mainly concerned with international trade between countries. Each sovereign country is still at liberty to regulate its own domestic trade. South Africa has since 1977 permitted a regulated legal trade in rhino horn within its own domestic borders. In 2009 the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs implemented an interim ban, known as the Rhino Horn Trade Moratorium, whereby the previous permissible trade in rhino horn was temporarily suspended. This Moratorium was declared to be invalid by the High Court of South Africa in November 2015. The South African Minister of Environmental affairs applied for leave to appeal against this declaration of invalidity, but such application was refused by the High Court and by the Supreme Court of Appeal and finally by the Constitutional Court of South Africa  on the 5th of April 2017. The effect of these court orders is that the trade in rhino horn is again legally permissible within the borders of South Africa, as it was for more than 30 years prior to the Moratorium.


There are two pieces of legislation that are crucial to the trading of rhino horn in South Africa.


1)    National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004


2)    Threatened or Protected Species Regulations.


White Rhino