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Possibility of trade fuels rhino poaching


The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has just released some revealing analysis that would seem to support those fighting against the legalization of trade in rhino horn. Prior to the South African government making an announcement a few months back that they will promote a legalization of trade agenda at the next CITES meeting in 2016, the country was losing 15.4 rhino a week to poaching. However, since the announcement favouring trade, the number of rhino killed has risen to an average of 18.6 animals each week. This represents a 21% rise in poaching rates.

But of even greater significance, these numbers would seem to support what anti-trade advocates have warned would happen – as was the case with ivory and elephants, legalizing the trade in rhino horn will serve to stimulate the poaching pressures on the species rather than reduce it. For the poaching syndicates, legalization represents a ready-made platform for them to launder their illegal gains, and in anticipation they are no doubt building up stockpiles.

Mary Rice, Executive Director of EIA, London had the following to say, “Powerful commercial interests in South Africa are seeking to cash in on their stockpiled horn at the expense of the conservation and survival of South Africa’s rhinos. Legalizing rhino horn trade will reward the criminal kingpins behind the poaching, pushing rhinos inside and outside of South Africa ever closer to extinction.”

I have said it before and feel it’s worth repeating. The next opportunity for the pro-trade lobby to initiate moves towards change will be 2016, and this then only sets in motion an onerous process. Under current circumstances, a final decision as to whether trade could take place may well be many years away. I don’ think it’s sound conservation thinking to spend that amount of time working towards a policy when we are getting such strong indicators of the risks. In the meantime, can you imagine would could be achieved if everyone threw their support and resources behind the recommendations of TRAFFIC and other non-trade advocates. For the full release go to





1 Comment

  1. Two niggling questions immediately appear. Firstly, to whom is SA going to sell the horns to? Someone in Asia is set to make a huge financial gain and how will they distribute the horn and to whom? There is no open market, so it will be interesting to find out – if we can find out – where all that horn goes. And don’t these questions need to be addressed before government can seek approval for the once-off sale.

    Secondly, and this question is a little more disquieting, who is set to gain in South Africa by such a sale? The government says, somewhat broadly, the money from the sale should go to conservation. Now, is that not as ambiguous as it gets? And this from a government that is notorious for corruption and misspending public funds. Who or what in conservation is going to benefit? Is it SAN Parks? If so, will the funds be used to combat further rhino poaching or is it just to line the pockets of the big-wigs? Furthermore, those private individuals sitting on their collection of rhino horns are almost certainly set to make a huge personal financial gain, and it’s also noticeable that they are making the loudest noise behind the pro-trade lobby. I can’t see these ‘farmers’ been altruistic enough to send all the money accrued to the continued preservation the species. Something about their clamouring to lift the ban smacks akin to the canned lion plague and I won’t be surprised if they are soon swapping their Hiluxes for Range Rovers.

    Call this a conspiracy theory, but I think we need to watch this space very, very closely because we all know it is not beyond our politicians and so-called ‘conservationists’ to get their grubby paws muddied in this macabre but most lucrative of trades.

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