The opening up of domestic rhino horn trade in South Africa has been put on ice as the government takes the matter to the Constitutional Court.
In May, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed the government’s bid to uphold a 7-year ban of the local trade of rhino horn, effectively opening up domestic trade to those with the right permits.
However, the South African department of environmental affairs said on Wednesday that no such permits would be issued, and trade would remain illegal until the matter has been resolved in the Constitutional Court.
Supporters of rhino horn trade say the money earned could be used for conservation and to pay for security, while opponents say that legal trade could tempt poachers who kill rhinos to launder their “blood” horns with clean supplies.
Thousands of South African rhinos have been slain in recent years to meet demand for the horn in Asian countries, where buyers consider it a cure for cancer or treatment for hangovers and other ailments.
Domestic trade in rhino horn was banned in 2009, which was challenged by rhino owners in court in 2015.
According to Pelham Jones, chairman of South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) it’s estimated that its members have around 6 tonnes of rhino horn, and reckons the state has close to 25 tonnes.
The combined 31 tonnes is estimated to be worth as much as R31.5 billion.
The ruling has and will have no impact on the status of international trade in rhino horn, which remains illegal.