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Experts warn against S. Africa's plan to sell rhino horns

July 5, 2013 at 3:35 PM

PRETORIA, South Africa, July 5 (UPI) -- South Africa's plan to sell a stockpile of rhino horns in attempt to flood the market and curb black market sales may backfire, an animal rights group said.

Jason Bell, International Fund for Animal Welfare regional director for southern Africa, said the South African government's proposal to put about 18 tons of rhino horns up for sale may not make the illegal trade go away and may endanger the country's rhino population, The Independent reported.

"If we were dealing with a species where the numbers were not a problem that would be a different matter, but we've passed the tipping point with rhino ... . It's a very dangerous experiment and could very easily be detrimental to rhino," Bell said.

Rudi van Aarde, head of the conservation ecology research unit at the University of Pretoria, agreed, saying the one-off sale the government has proposed "could badly backfire."

"Having sensitized the world to the plight of rhinos and the problems of the illegal trade, then to have government ask to be able to sell rhino horn legally, is going to cost us. South Africa has won accolades for conservation internationally. We've done a lot of good things. To throw that away in pursuit of R11 billion ($1 billion) will be selling off our international goodwill, and that is quite a price to pay," van Aarde said.

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