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Could legalising rhino horn trade stop poaching?

South Africa is considering legalising rhino horn trade - in a bid to combat rampant rhino poaching, but the suggestion has been met with mixed reaction in Southern Africa, the BBC reports. Demand for rhino horn is at an all time high and South Africa, which has the largest reserves of the wild animal, is a prime hunting ground for poachers.
Large syndicates are involved in this multi-billion dollar trade worldwide - exporting the horns from Africa to parts of Asia and the Middle-East. After darting it with a tranquiliser, poachers use a chainsaw to cut away the rhino's horns, leaving the drugged and helpless the animal to bleed to death.

Over the past three years, gangs are said to have killed more than 800 rhinos for their horns, which can fetch £22,000 ($35,055) per kg on the black market. Despite many anti-poaching measures, 310 rhinos have been killed in South Africa this year, more than 330 rhinos had been killed at the end of last year - and the numbers are set to increase, experts warn. The Department of Environmental Affairs announced recently that South Africa has commissioned a study into whether legalising trade in rhino horn could in fact help to bring down poaching.

"We are impartial at this stage but we are looking at all the suggestions which could help us in the fight against poachers," the Department of Environmental Affair's spokesperson, Albie Modise, told the BBC. "We are awaiting submissions and would consider this if we get authentic scientific backing that this would be effective," he added. The department says rhino horn stock piles could also be sold to fund further rhino conservation efforts, but the consideration has drawn heavy criticism from international conversation group WWF, which says this would be a setback by decades the efforts made to stabilise the rhino population.

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