Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa briefs media in Parliament on Thursday. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa briefs media in Parliament on Thursday. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

THE government would consider taking "extraordinary measures" to save rhino from poaching, including possible trading in rhino horn, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Thursday.

Ms Molewa told a media briefing in Parliament that at the Cites Conference of Parties (Cop 16) to be held in Bangkok in March, South Africa would "listen and gather as much information as possible" regarding trading.

Cites is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

South Africa has been struggling to combat rhino poaching. The recent surge in poaching has been largely fuelled by a thriving market in Vietnam and China for rhino horn, used as a traditional medicine believed to treat everything from hangovers to cancer.

The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs said that by this week 128 rhino had been poached in the country since the beginning of the year. The Kruger National Park continues to be the hardest hit, having lost 92 rhino in the past two months.

"We have been given a mandate by Cabinet not to close our ears to potential and possible trading in rhino horn," Ms Molewa said, and at Cop 16 South Africa "would listen and gather as much information as possible" on what should be done about trading.

She said a report by former home affairs director-general Mavuso Msimang on possible ways of saving rhino from poaching would be released after being discussed with provinces.

The Cabinet had been provided with an overview of the four thematic areas that emerged during the rhino issues management process: funding, rhino conservation, safety and security, and commerce.

"With regard to the recommendations relating to proposed international trade, as stated before, this can only be done if the current international prohibitions are removed through agreement of Cites Parties, a potential trade partner has been identified and discussions have been initiated to determine the viability, especially considering that consumer states have trade prohibitions in place that will have to be repealed," Ms Molewa said.

"It is necessary that, as a country that carries 75% of rhino population in the world, we take more initiative.

"As things are, we do think people who are poaching do require this rhino horn — maybe we need to take extraordinary measures (including looking at this matter of trade)," she said.

"We haven’t said we are trading tomorrow ... that is why we will be meeting our trading partners. One of them being Vietnam....

They also need to be ready, they need to be compliant.

"It is really an exercise of finding out."