South Africa's government is moving ahead with plans to allow a domestic trade and limited export of rhino horns, alarming many international conservationists who believe rhinos will be more vulnerable to poachers after a record slaughter in the past decade.

Draft regulations would allow a foreigner with permits to export "for personal purposes" a maximum of two rhino horns. Critics argue that any exported horns would be hard to monitor and likely would end up on the commercial market, defying global agreements to protect threatened rhino populations.

Most of the world's rhinos live in South Africa. An international ban on trade in rhino horns has been in place since 1977, and South Africa imposed a moratorium on the domestic trade in 2009, when rhino poaching was accelerating to meet growing demand for horns in parts of Asia, especially Vietnam.

South Africa's government has lost court battles to preserve the 2009 ban, which was challenged by rhino breeders, and has leaned toward trade, backing a failed proposal by neighboring Swaziland at a U.N. wildlife conference in Johannesburg last year to legalize the international sale of rhino horn.

A 30-day period during which the public was invited to express opinions about the draft legislation on rhino horn trade ended Friday, the Department of Environmental Affairs said.

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Source: March 12, 2017, The Times of India