Legal trade in rhino horn proposal bites the dust at Cites meeting
SWAZILAND’s proposal to trade in rhino horn was rejected on Monday at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in Sandton.
The proposal failed to get the two-thirds majority it needed to allow the regulated and controlled sale of rhino horn, with 100 countries voting against and 26 voting for.
The Swazi delegation made a heartfelt speech to delegates from 183 countries to allow the trade, saying it would assist Swaziland with the escalating costs of protecting its rhinos. The Swazi delegates said funds that came from sales of rhino horn would go towards paying rangers and increasing security in the country’s protected areas.
But their call fell on deaf ears as a number of states, including the US, EU and Kenya, said that if the proposals were passed they would reverse the good work that had been done to reduce demand for rhino horn. Israel said the Swazi proposal would exacerbate the situation. Kenya said the proposal would support illegality and, in addition, the amount that Swaziland wanted to supply to the market would not satisfy the demand.
Swaziland in turn said that if something was not down now to change the status quo there would be no rhinos in the wild. Swaziland has the lowest rate of poaching among rhino range states.
Rhino poaching in South Africa has dramatically increased since 2008. In the first four month of 2016, there were already 363 rhinos killed by poachers. To deter poachers, the rhino horn - which is in high demand in Asia - is removed.
Manager of the World Wildlife Fund’s South African rhino programme Dr Jo Shaw said countries at Cites had rightly decided that now was not the time to reopen trade in rhino horn. Shaw said that despite the need for additional funds to protect rhinos, conditions were not conducive to effectively regulating legal trade.
Given the scale of trafficking in rhino horns by transnational criminal networks and the extent of the illegal domestic markets in Asia, the risks were too great for wild rhino populations, she said. "What we need now is firm action by Cites and all concerned to address poaching, trafficking and consumption of rhino horn."
Shaw said the World Wildlife Fund welcomed the strong signal from Cites that it would hold Vietnam and Mozambique to account as key countries complicit in illegal rhino horn trade.