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The international trade in rhino horn, regulated by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), has been banned since 1977. While international trade is illegal under this convention, individual countries are nonetheless able to determine their own laws to allow or prohibit the sale of rhino horn domestically i.e., within their country. Since 1977, some countries have indeed banned domestic rhino horn trade. However, even the decision to impose a local ban has not been straightforward or uncontroversial, particularly in rhino-range states that have sustainable use policies.

At the most recent CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP) in 2016, Swaziland (now eSwatini) tabled a proposal to bring back the international trade in rhino horn, but this was rejected. The next CITES CoP is now on the horizon (August 2019, Switzerland – after the Sri Lanka meeting in May had to be postponed) and it is likely to be a key meeting for rhinos, with a proposal from eSwatini to allow a trade in rhino horn of its white rhinos, a proposal from Namibia to allow a live animal trade in white rhinos and for trophy hunting, alongside numerous other items for discussion that will impact rhino conservation.

How can the world deny Africa an annual multi-million dollar sustainable, legal and moral trading possibility from its own resources, desperately needed to fund Nature conservation?

2018 Statistics

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RHINOS POACHED IN 2018

The drop in number of rhinos poached is no reason to celebrate– this is inevitable when there are fewer rhinos on the ground to poach and when those that remain are more difficult to access.

THE NUMBER OF POACHER ACTIVITIES IN THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK WAS 2620 IN 2018 ONLY 2 LESS THAN IN 2017. THERE IS NO LET UP. DEMAND DRIVES SUPPLY.

The provincial and national breakdown for 2018 is as follows:

PROVINCES AND NATIONAL PARKS20172018
SANParks504422
Gauteng42
Limpopo7940
Mpumalanga4951
North West9665
Eastern Cape1219
Free State3816
Northern Cape2412
Kwa-Zulu Natal222142
Western Cape00
 Total1028769
Black Rhino

Recent numbers of Black and Southern White rhinos are not available but it is clear that Africa’s biggest rhino populations continue to plummet due to slaughter from poaching…

Every 8 hours at least one rhino is killed by horn poachers in South Africa alone!

We have passed the tipping point – more rhinos are being poached than are being born and well over 1,000 Game Rangers have died while protecting rhinos and elephants in Africa.

African parks and other rhino custodians are struggling to survive. Private rhino owners in South Africa own more rhinos than the rest of Africa put together and could be a source for restocking in future – but many are now being forced to give upon their rhinos, including the world’s two biggest private rhino breeders who own over 10% of the global rhino population. Already over 200 000ha has been lost to rhino conservation, which equates to habitat for 5 000 rhinos.

While rhino poaching is surging, rhino habitat is shrinking…

a double-edged sword for Africa’s rhinos.

Yet rhino horn is more valuable than gold – and better than gold, it is a self-renewing sustainable resource. Gold can only be mined once, while rhinos breed and their horns keep growing. Horn can be traded sustainably, and can be ethically and painlessly harvested again and again from the same animal, without killing a single rhino.

It is untenable that Africa owns this vast and valuable selfrenewing resource but due to the ban on horn trade criminals are taking 100% of the revenue from horn while rhino custodians are paying 100% of the cost of protection and production, and communities are deprived of any benefits.

Massive horn stocks exist that could be converted into much needed cash if the ban was lifted.

How can the world deny Africa an annual multi-million dollar sustainable, legal and moral trading possibility from its own resources, desperately needed to fund Nature conservation?

» Many species have been saved from extinction by sustainable use and commercialization (vicuña in South America, reindeer in Lapland, caribou in Canada, and in Southern Africa Nile crocodile, ostrich and Black wildebeest, to name but a few species that are now safe as a direct result of sustainable use;

» In Kenya where sustainable use has been banned for 40 years, the wildlife estate has reduced by more than 80% (this is verified by an in-depth EU funded study by oneGerman and six Kenyan scientists completed in 2016). By contrast, in South Africa, where sustainable use and commercialization has been practiced, over the same period of time, the area of land under conservation has more than tripled and the wild animal estate has grown 20 times.

Over 90% of the world’s White rhinos occur in Southern Africa, where the species was saved from extinction and where by far the majority of rhino range states support the legal trade in rhino horn.

“Without trade, there is no financial model to keep rhinos on private land, or even to finance rhinos on state land. All other issues are secondary.” – Professor Brian Child, August 2018

A strictly controlled, transparent rhino horn Central Selling Organization (CSO) based on the “Smart Trade” model is seen as the logical way forward, to serve in the long term best interests of Africa’s rhinos and for the benefit of custodians and rural communities. An International Trading Protocol will be approved by all interested parties and registered with CITES, who will be able to perform the task for which they were created – to control trade for the benefit of wild species.

In simple terms the trade alternative will transfer rhinos from being liabilities into assets and pass the incentives from criminals to legitimate stakeholders. This is the reversal of fortunes that rhinos so desperately need.

Contact LEGAL TRADE FOR RHINO SURVIVAL (LTRS) at conservationhq@biggameparks.org

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