CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South Africa’s government is backing the legalization of trade in rhino horns in an effort to stem poaching of the endangered animals.
‘‘South Africa cannot continue to be held hostage by the syndicates slaughtering our rhinos,’’ Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa told reporters Wednesday in Pretoria, the capital. ‘‘The establishment of a well-regulated international trade’’ could help curb rhino poaching, she said.
At least 446 rhinos have been killed illegally in South Africa this year, with 280 slaughtered in Kruger National Park, a conservation area the size of Israel that borders Mozambique and where the army has been deployed, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement. The rate of deaths this year is set to exceed 2012’s record.
South Africa’s government has about 36,237 pounds of stockpiled rhino horn, while 2,091 kilograms more is in private hands, said Fundisile Mketeni, deputy director-
general. The government backs a one-time sale of horn from rhino fatalities and does not plan to dispose of horn from illegal activities, he said.
The horns sell for more than gold by weight in China and Vietnam, where they are believed by some to cure cancer and boost virility.
The United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora will vote on final approval of the anti-poaching plan in 2016.