Facts About the Trade in Ivory and Rhino Horn

It is scandalous that Western NGOs, with the connivance of CITES, and with the help of Western governments, have shut down the legal trade in ivory and rhino horn. CITES is supposed to REGULATE the wildlife trade, and that includes trade in ivory and rhino horn.  And the specific object of REGULATING the wildlife trade is to make sure that it does not adversely affect the safety of the WILD populations from which the trade commodities come.

NB: The whole emphasis on the CITES wildlife trade regulation centres round the impact that trade has, or does not have, on WILD animal populations.  In a nutshell: If the harvest of a wildlife commodity, such as ivory or rhino horn, is sustainable, and if it has no detrimental effect on the WILD population from which it is derived, then the trade in that commodity should be approved and permitted.  Only when such trade has a detrimental effect on the wild animal population from which the commodity is derived, should it be denied!  CITES has no other mandate!  

CITES has no authority to PROHIBIT (out of hand) trade in ivory and rhino horn, but that is exactly what CITES has done and continues to do.  It has unilaterally PROHIBITED the trade in legally harvested ivory, and in legally harvested rhino hornby sovereign states that are registered elephant and rhino range states. These states have their own elephants and/or their own rhinos, so there is no question that, by requesting permission to trade in these commodities, that they intend to launder illegal tusks and horns through the legal trade. Furthermore, these states have:

MASSIVELY EXCESSIVE elephant populations which, if ‘best practice’ elephant management is to be applied, should be subjected to extreme population-reduction management. The procurement of their ivory stocks over many years, therefore, has not resulted in any harm coming to these populations; and
These states have very large and privately-owned captive white rhino breeding facilities on which private properties the rhinos’ horns are humanely and sustainably ‘trimmed’ off live rhinos every two years. Rhino horn procurement on these rhino farms, therefore, does not involve the killing of rhinos; or the taking of horns from WILD rhino populations. So, the procurement of rhino horn by these states does not cause ‘harm’ to any WILD rhino population.

So, whatever trade is possible in ivory and rhino horn out of southern African countries is having absolutely no negative effects on any WILD elephant and/or WILD rhino population. There is no justification, therefore, for denying such trade.

 

NB: And an even greater and more pertinent consideration is the fact that the rhino horn comes from CAPTIVE-BRED populations (not WILD ones); AND a captive population that has proved over and over again that it is capable of producing F2 (second) generation young rhinos.  For a captive-bred population to be registered as such at CITES, all it has to do is to prove that it can produce F2 progeny; and once a captive-bred rhino population is so registered, no CITES permits are required to sell either the live animals or their horns. The other argument put forward by CITES, to disallow legal trade in ivory and rhino horn, is the allegation that whenever any kind of legal trade in these commodities has been allowed, a spike in poaching has immediately thereafter occurred. The inference being that if a perpetuating legal trade is allowed, it will only happen in tandem with an undesirable and equally persistent illegal trade; and that illegally procured elephant tusks and illegally procured rhino horns will be then easily laundered through the legal system.  

This idea is a pernicious supposition; and I challenge CITES to prove that this will happen. Having said that, however, I don’t believe CITES can do that!  I have clearly indicated that between 1970 and 2012 there is very strong evidence to support the view that these so-called ‘spikes’ in elephant poaching (and to a lesser extent in rhino poaching, too) have been almost exclusively orchestrated by the political elites of those times, in Kenya, in Tanzania, in Zimbabwe and in Zambia. And I believe Mozambique should be added to this list even though I have no evidence to support any wrong-doing by Mozambique (only rumour).  

All things considered, however, it is highly improper that CITES should deny a perfectly legitimate trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn purely on unsupported and unsupportable assumptions by people and NGOs, who own no elephants or rhinos, and whose purpose in life, inter alia, is to PROHIBIT the wildlife trade.

I now request of CITES, in fairness to those African countries that have been compromised by the convention’s ‘unconventional’ trade prohibitions, to thoroughly investigate my observations that it was the political elites of East-Central Africa, not a non-existent Far Eastern poaching mafia, who were responsible for all the ‘spikes’ in elephant and rhino poaching events since 1970.  And to admit that all these so-called ‘spikes in poaching’ is nothing more than ‘fake news’.  Nothing less than an international broad-based inquiry will suffice, at the highest possible political level, at United Nations level, to remove this bubbling volcano that trembles beneath our feet.

And bearing in mind all of the above, I believe that all references to poaching ‘spikes’ after a brief legal trade has been allowed, should be totally disregarded.  They are patently blatant excuses, fabrications by the animal rights brigade, used to deny the legitimate applications by African countries to open up the legal trade in ivory and rhino horn.

 

Ron Thomson

I am NOT a ‘trophy hunter’ - and never have been. I am not involved in the trophy hunting safari business. I am also not a game rancher. But I have ‘administratively controlled’ professional hunters and safari outfitters in my capacity as a government game warden. I am an 80 year old ex-game warden with 60 years of continuous experience in hands-on wildlife management, and national park management, in Africa (1959 to 2019). In breakdown, I have 24 years experience in the management of national parks in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe - and in the management of the wild animal populations that lived inside those national parks; one year as the Chief Nature Conservation of the Ciskei in South Africa; three years as Director of the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board in South Africa; and I worked for three years as a professional hunter in the South African Great Karoo (taking foreign hunters on quests for plains game trophies). I discovered, however, that professional hunting was not my forte. I worked as an investigative wildlife journalist for 30 years in South Africa. I have written fifteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on the subject of wildlife management and big game hunting in Africa. Five of my books are university-level text books on wildlife management. I am a university-trained ecologist; was a member of the Institute of Biology (London) for 20 years; and was a registered chartered biologist for the European Union for 20 years. I have VAST experience in the “management hunting” of elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and hippos (as part of my official national park work in the control of problem animals); and I pioneered the capture of black rhino in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley (1964 - 1970). My university thesis was entitled: “The Factors Affecting the Survival and Distribution of Black Rhinos in Rhodesia”. Look at my personal website if you want any further details about my experience: www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za.

Ron Thomson has 159 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

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