International Rhino Horn Trade Ban Failing

Those who take rhino conservation very seriously must rethink if the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) international ban on rhino horn is really working.

About a week ago, eight rhinos were poached in iMfolozi Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal and another in Hluhluwe. Then on Friday 19 May 2017) the South African Revenue Service (SARS) Customs Unit seized over seven kilogrammes of rhino horn at OR Tambo International Airport. The international ban in rhino horn is in force but rhinos are being poached. Such a sad reality of the 40-year-failure of international rhino horn trade ban to stop rhino poaching has continued.

Notably, this failure continues to unfold just about seven months after the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) CITES was held in October 2016 in South Africa with another endorsement for an international ban on rhino trade by CITES’ 180 member countries. Pro-rhino horn trade African countries that included Namibia, South Africa (with the world’s biggest rhino population), Swaziland and Zimbabwe opposed the CITES international rhino horn trade ban. Sadly, the international trade in rhino horn’s failure and futility to stop poaching has shamefully continued to unfold. In my view this failed experiment needs to be stopped. The implication is that the CITES needs to come up with another solution towards addressing the rhino horn poaching challenge.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) recently reported that the number of African rhinos killed by poachers had increased for the sixth year in a row with at least 1,338 rhinos killed by poachers across Africa in 2015. This is the highest level since the rhino poaching crisis began to increase in 2008. Since then, poachers have killed at least 5,940 African rhinos.  This has continued to happen while the international ban on rhino horn ban is in place. Clearly, the CITES 40-year-old is an experiment that has gone wrong and should be discontinued.

The following are hard facts confirm the dismal failure of the CITES 40-year-old international rhino trade ban experiment’s failure to stop rhino poaching:

  • From 1977 when the CITES rhino horn ban was enforced internationally, the number of African country rhino range states (those with rhinos) has dropped shamefully and sharply from 33 to 10.
  • This means that 23 of them that had rhinos then now have zero rhino population and five of them have fewer than 300, including Uganda that has only 13 rhinos but is very vocal in its advocacy for the worldwide ban international trade in rhino horn.
  • 1,200 rhinos having been gunned down by poachers in 2015 alone, in South Africa.

Demand for rhino horn, together with ivory from South East Asia has been there since time immemorial. The world cannot stop the demand and will never do. It can only control it. With international rhino horn trade ban having failed, the world needs African solutions from African countries to solve this. The continent has the biggest rhino population and must have the final say on what should be done to their rhinos. Non-African CITES member countries should therefore respect African countries’ decision for the replacement of the failed 40-year-old international ban on rhino horn trade. African countries including Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe are saying they want to resume trade in rhino horn so that proceeds from the sales can then be used to conserve the endangered species. They are the owners of the rhinos. Why does CITES not listen to them and try the strictly controlled international trade in rhino horn experiment for 40 years, just like they did with the failed international rhino horn ban for the same number of years.

Right now the rhino is not paying for its protection because of international rhino trade ban. If CITES grants international trade as an alternative, money generated from rhino horn trade would be used for rhino conservation. Currently, Africa is depending on tax payer’s money and a handful of donations to save its rhinos. By endorsing international trade in rhino horn and not significantly helping to pay for the costs to stop rhino poaching the Geneva-based CITES and its member countries that voted for the ban are exercising authority without responsibility over rhino conservation in Africa. They authorised the ban but cannot fund the costs of looking after rhino populations whose horns cannot be traded internationally to pay for their conservation.

Back home in most African countries, communities living side by side with rhinos have never been given ownership of rhinos. No wonder why they collaborate with poachers who can in one single week gun down big numbers of rhinos. What then is the solution to this rhino poaching crisis? There is need to incentivize rhino conservation by making poor rural communities, neighbouring rhino game reserves benefit from rhinos through tourism or trade. It is the neighbouring rural communities to rhino game reserves that can meaningfully help game rangers and security forces to meaningfully reduce rhinos poaching. It is a no brainer that poachers pass through these communities en route to rhino game reserves and the local residents would not cooperate with poachers if they were enjoying direct benefits from the rhinos. This conservation approach has been successfully used in countries such as Namibia; where rural residents are given ownership over their rhinos in Torra Conservancy for example.

Africa needs trade and not aid to conserve its rhinos, at a time when the 40-year international rhino horn trade ban has failed. Those with views to the contrary I challenge you to come out to debate this matter live and direct on African country television and radio stations.

Africa and its people and resources and rhinos in this particular instance; cannot continue to be experimented upon, with no tangible benefits. Who really owns Africa’s rhinos and their future? For how long can we continue not to act decisively and call a replacement of a CITES international rhino horn trade ban experiment that has failed dismally for 40 years? Somebody better do something out there, to stop another rhino conservation moment of madness when 180 CITES member countries meet at their next conference in Sri Lanka in 2019.

Johannesburg – 25 May 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Emmanuel Koro

Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based and international award-winning environmental journalist who has and continues to cover environmental issues in Africa.

Emmanuel Koro has 9 posts and counting. See all posts by Emmanuel Koro

7 thoughts on “International Rhino Horn Trade Ban Failing

  • August 5, 2017 at 5:00 pm
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    There is a solution but very few people want to listen to the people on the ground. History has proven when a commodity is banned a violent illegal market will prosper, which is exactly what has happenned since the CITES ban came into effect. It was proven again when the South African Government enforced a domestic ban 8 years ago, rhino poaching has incresed by over 7000% and the annual amount of rhino killed every year in South Africa has risen from less than 20 to over a 1000.
    The only people prospering from the illegal trade are poaching syndicates, terrorists and unscrupulous charity groups. While Rhino custodians have been pushed to breaking point emotionally and financially. It is time to reverse this scenario and put rhino conservation back into the hands of conservationists, vets and scientists who have the rhino’s best interest at heart.
    By legalising trade we will make the rhino the most valued and protected animal in the world which will guarantee its survival. At the moment a rhino’s horn is worth more than the rhino and custodians have been robbed of the funds to protect them which spells extinction for the rhino.
    Is it not time to let the very thing that is killing them save them? We have to explore other options before it is too late, to do the same wrong thing over and over again is pure madness and the rhino will pay the ultimate price. Are we going to be the generation responsible for this?

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    • August 14, 2017 at 4:21 pm
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      Thank you for the intelligent analysis that puts the animal rights groups and poachers in the same camp of the enemies of the rhinos and African rhino range states.

      Within such a rhino horn international trade ban status quo, the rhinos are threatened with extinction through poaching, while their government and people are threatened with poverty. It is high time that we as African people, including our journalists put an end to this scandal, even if it means taking up the issue with the International Court of Justice, known for prosecuting problematic African leaders and not equally problematic outsiders (animal rights groups) who are committing crimes against African range states, their elephants, rhinos and the environment in general, through sponsoring votes against rhino trade within the CITES decision making framework.

      Reply
  • August 5, 2017 at 6:36 pm
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    This is one reason I love the proposal of http://www.conservacoin.io and the work they intend to do for endangered species and communities in South Africa. A very interesting project which I really hopes gets funded for long term good

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  • August 5, 2017 at 7:57 pm
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    This senseless murder of animals in your country has to stop it is evil barbaric and cruel all wild animals deserve to live you are flouting their right and should pay for you evil greed

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    • August 14, 2017 at 4:14 pm
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      No one is murdering animals. The animal products that we would like to and are trading in under CITES permission, such as rhino horn are from rhinos that died of natural causes and those sustainably harvested from live rhinos.

      For your own information it is the animal rights groups that are causing the murdering of wildlife in our countries. Your protest against murdering wildlife should be aimed at them not us their victims, together with our wildlife. Let me explain how animal rights contribute to the massive poach of our rhinos for instance.

      The animal rights groups sponsored ban on rhino horn trade over the past 40 years within the CITES decision-making framework over which that they have great influence, has failed to stop rhino poaching. Sadly, this animal-rights-groups-created crisis has curiously continued to benefit them and poachers; at the expense of the African and rhino range states, rhino breeders such John Hume and poor communities neighbouring national parks and game reserves. They (Africans) pay for the costs of looking after the rhinos while animal rights and poachers in sharp and sad contrast; enjoy the financial benefits of the poaching crisis created by the 40-year rhino horn trade ban. Animal rights benefit from asking for rhino ‘conservation’ funds from their members worldwide. The poachers in turn earn more money by increasing their poaching activities; to supply illegal horn to an ever-increasing black market rhino horn demand, created by the animal rights groups sponsored rhino horn trade ban. What a scandal that journalist worldwide, including those from South Africa should be exposing and not condoning.

      Within such a rhino horn international trade ban status quo, the rhinos are threatened with extinction through poaching, while their government and people are threatened with poverty. It is high time that we as African people, including our journalists put an end to this scandal, even if it means taking up the issue with the International Court of Justice, known for prosecuting problematic African leaders and not equally problematic outsiders (animal rights groups) who are committing crimes against African range states, their elephants, rhinos and the environment in general, through sponsoring votes against rhino trade within the CITES decision making framework.

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      • August 22, 2017 at 7:55 am
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        When the last rhino has left this earth, some one will say I told you so :'( x

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        • August 22, 2017 at 8:19 am
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          As long as we trade in our rhino horn and live rhinos no live rhino will be left on earth. It is such donor-money-searching language that animal rights had continue to use unexposed and fool people for many years.
          Now we know better that the ban in rhino horn trade for the past 40 years has dismally failed to stop poaching (viz statistics from IUCN and statements from the CITES Secretariat over the past 20 years or so). Rhino poaching is a man-made rhino poaching crisis (animal rights groups) that animal rights groups would like to continue so that they, together with poachers can continue to benefit from unprotected and also seemingly value-less rhinos which rural communities do not value at all under the benefits-withdrawing rhino trade ban. Without direct benefits from rhino, communities do not see the incentive to conserve and would rather collaborate with poachers.

          Solution against rhino poaching: Put a value to the rhino through trade and you have created an incentive to save it. African rhino range states would rather trade in their rhinos instead of being given inadequate and strings-attached donor funds that have never gotten them anywhere. Time for trade not aid in order to help save the rhino.

          Reply

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