The South African government has announced that it has abandoned its plan to trade internationally in rhino horn. It was to have introduced the proposal at the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Johannesburg, to be held in September.

The South African government sought to be able to sell its store of 20 tons of rhino horn and to sell horns from killed rhinos in the future.

Network for Animals had lobbied the government to abandon the proposal. “We pointed out to the government there is solid scientific evidence to show that a legal trade would lead to an increase in poaching,” said Network’s David Barritt. “Rhino poaching involves revolting cruelty; often rhinos are hacked with machetes while still alive after being disabled by automatic weapons. Any baby rhino that gets in the way is usually killed.”

Most of South Africa’s rhinos live in the Kruger National Park, Network for Animals supporters have helped combat rhino poaching by providing food and non-lethal equipment for anti-poaching patrols in the area, which is larger than the country of Wales.

Already both African rhino species, the black rhino and the white rhino, are endangered, the black rhino critically so. The number of rhinos poached in South Africa alone increased 9000 per cent between 2007 and 2014. In 2015 at least 1,305 rhinos were killed by poachers, 1175 of them in South Africa, which is home to around 80 percent of Africa’s rhinos.

Demand for rhino horn in Vietnam and China is also driving the illegal trade. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine believe rhino horn can cure cancer and other diseases, though it is in fact made of keratin, the same substance human fingernails are made of, and has no known medicinal properties.