NEW norms and standards for trophy hunting and marking rhino horns will be implemented immediately, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Monday.

"The gazetting of the new norms and standards is another significant step that the department is taking in the fight against rhino poaching," Ms Molewa said in a statement.

Between January and April this year, 171 rhinos had been poached in South Africa, the Department of Environmental Affairs said on Friday. Last year, 448 rhinos were killed, and 333 in 2010.

"We once again make a call to members of the public to also help us in the fight against rhino poaching," Ms Molewa said.

According to the norms and standards gazetted on April 10, all live rhinos sold and transported have to be microchipped. All rhino horns, regardless of how they were acquired, have to be microchipped within five days.

In addition to microchips, if the horn or part of it is more than 5cm in length, the issuing authority will mark it with indelible ink.

"This information will be kept and updated in a national database," the minister said. "The owner of the horn is responsible for the costs incurred by the issuing authority to purchase the microchips."

When live rhinos are darted to be moved, samples of their horns and blood have to be collected using DNA kits.

Regarding the hunting of rhinos, in addition to applying for a permit, an applicant now has to submit proof of membership of a hunting association recognised by the applicant's country of residence, a curriculum vitae indicating the applicant's hunting experience, proof of previous experience in hunting an African species, and a copy of the applicant's passport.

A hunting client can hunt only one white rhino for trophy purposes within a 12-month period.

Rhino hunts have to take place in the presence of an environmental management inspector or an official of the issuing authority authorised to conduct compliance inspections.

The horns, together with the rest of the trophy, have to be transported by a duly authorised person directly to the taxidermy or similar facility to be prepared for export.

"Upon receipt of the rhino horns, the taxidermist or owner of a similar facility must report to the Department of Environmental Affairs the date of receipt of the rhino horns, weight of the horns, microchip numbers, the numbers of the hunting and transporting permits, and the professional hunting register," Ms Molewa said.

It is hoped the new norms and standards will strengthen monitoring of hunts and control over rhino horns, she said.

SAPA