JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African court has dismissed a government effort to preserve a ban on the domestic trade in rhino horn, prompting warnings from some conservationists that the threatened rhino population will be even more vulnerable to poachers.
The South African government had sought to appeal a November ruling by a Pretoria court that rescinded a moratorium on the local trade, but a court rejected that bid, an official with South Africa's environment ministry said.
The court denied "leave to appeal," said the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and confirmed the court ruling on condition of anonymity.
In the November ruling, Judge Francis Legodi of the North Gauteng High Court said the government had failed to properly consult the public before imposing the ban in 2009.
The legal battle pits those who say legalization will spur poaching in South Africa against rhino breeders and others who believe a regulated trade will undercut poaching. The regulated trade would likely allow the sale of horn stockpiles and the harvesting of horns from living rhinos.
Allison Thomson, an anti-poaching activist in South Africa, said the country has international obligations to ensure that there is no domestic trade in rhino horn.
An international ban on the rhino horn trade has been in place since 1977. South Africa has proposed that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which oversees the trade of wild animals and plants, discuss lifting that ban at its next meeting in Johannesburg in September.
South Africa is home to most of the world's rhinos. Poachers have been killing them in record numbers for their horns.
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