With the Department of Environmental Affairs stalling the first legal rhino horn auction actually happening remains to be seen.
Update August 30th: On August 20th the DEA did approve the necessary permit. Reportedly the first legal online auction had a less than hoped for response. According to TimesLive, contrary to protocol, Hume stated, “We do not intend to publish the names of the purchasers or the prices achieved at the auction at this stage‚ out of respect for the privacy and confidentiality of the purchasers. We however assure the public that all bidders were duly authorised to participate in the auction and were issued with the legally required permits to so participate.”
“Rhino Horn Auction starts in 2 days” reads the website of John Hume and Van’s Auctioneers, followed by a countdown to their planned online rhino horn auction. It’s an online platform that has been translated into Vietnamese and Mandarin and will facilitate the sale of more than two hundred rhino horns, should Hume obtain the necessary permits.
However, he has not yet received the permits and today filed an urgent application with the High Court for permits authorising the selling of 264 rhinoceros horns by way of online auction, to be handed over within twelve hours. His application goes on further to say that the permits forming the subject matter of the application has already been approved and issued by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, however she has failed or refused to actually hand over the original permit, despite officials saying that the permits have been issued and are ready for collection.
Moses Rannditsheni, acting spokesman for the Department of Environmental Affairs, says, “The Minister of Environmental Affairs is opposing the application.” For now, the hearing has been postponed to 2pm on Sunday the 20th of August, less than 24 hours before the online auction is due to take place.
Hume argues that his application to the High Court is a matter of urgency because of the enormous financial burden he is under to protect the rhinos in his possession. The application requests the Court to order the Minister of Environmental Affairs to pay the costs of this application should she oppose it.
Unconfirmed reports say that the horns are stockpiled in three different provinces and that these stock piles have not been verified as required in terms of the draft regulations for the domestic trade in rhinoceros horn, or a part, product or derivative thereof.
In order to be issued with the necessary permit an application must be accompanied by a number of documents, including proof that the rhino horn has been subject to genetic profiling by a scientific institution, clear photographs of the individual rhinoceros horns, details of the marking of the individual rhinoceros horns, including the serial and microchip number of each rhinoceros horn and measurements of the horn. Failure to submit any one of the above requirements could result in the permit not being issued.
Despite attempts by hacktivists to bring down the auction website, it has remained online with bidding due to open at 12:00PM on 21st August 2017 and close at 12:00PM on 24 August 2017. A physical auction will also take place on 19 September 2017 at 11:00AM.
Prospective buyers will have to obtain a permit to enable them to register online and participate in the auction. According to the website, “anyone with a permit can participate in the auction as the government has lifted the ban on the domestic trade of rhino horn in South Africa. This means that rhino horn can be traded in the country; however, the ban on international trade is still in force.”
However, to date, no such permits have been issued and the regulations remain in draft form.
Contributed by Janine Avery and the Conservation Action Trust
[The author is solely responsible for the accuracy of the above article.]