Trade, not aid, will help to save Africa’s rhinos
The CITES ban on rhino-horn trade has failed to protect rhinos and must be rescinded, argues
THOSE who take rhino conservation very seriously must consider whether the international ban on rhino horn trade by the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, is really working.
The ban is in force but rhinos are being poached. That is the sad reality of the 40year failure of the ban.
This failure continues to unfold seven months after the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES was held in October 2016 in South Africa — and endorsed the international ban on the trade in rhino horn.
African countries that opposed the ban on the trade in rhino horn included Namibia, South Africa (with the world’s biggest rhino population), Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
The failed experiment needs to be stopped. CITES needs to come up with another solution to address the challenge of rhino poaching.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature species survival commission’s African rhino specialist group 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 in 2015. This is the highest level since the rhino-poaching crisis began to worsen in 2008.
Since then, poachers have killed at least 5 940 African rhinos. This has continued while the international ban is in place.
The following hard facts confirm the dismal failure of the trade-ban experiment to stop rhino poaching:
Since 1977, when the CITES ban was first enforced internationally, the number of Africa rhino range states (those with rhinos) has dropped shamefully and sharply from 33 to 10.
This means that 23 of the countries that had rhinos then now have none. Five of them have fewer than 300, including Uganda, which has only 13 rhinos but is very vocal in its advocacy for the worldwide ban on rhinohorn trade; and
Last year 1 200 rhinos were gunned down by poachers in South Africa alone.
Demand for rhino horn from Southeast Asia has existed from time immemorial. The world cannot stop the demand and never will. It can only control it.
With the international ban on rhino-horn trade having failed, the world needs African solutions from African countries to solve the problem of rhino poaching.
The continent has the biggest rhino population and must have the final say on what should be done.
African countries, including Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, say they want to resume trade in rhino horn so that proceeds from the sales can be used to conserve the endangered species. CARNAGE: On average, three rhinos were killed every day in South Africa last year
They are the owners of the rhinos. Why does CITES not listen to them and try strictly controlled international trade in rhino horn?
Right now the rhino is not paying for its protection because of the international trade ban.
If CITES lifts the ban, money generated from selling rhino horns would be used for rhino conservation.
Currently, Africa is depending on taxpayers’ money and a handful of donors to save its rhinos.
By endorsing the ban and not significantly helping to pay to stop rhino poaching, 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. It is therefore no wonder that they collaborate with poachers.
There is a need to incentivise rhino conservation by allowing poor rural commuties nities neighbouring on rhino game reserves to benefit from rhinos through tourism or trade.
It is the neighbouring rural communities who can help game rangers and security forces to meaningfully reduce rhino poaching.
Poachers pass through these communi- en route to rhino game reserves — and it is a no-brainer that the local residents would not co-operate 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.
Africa, its people, resources and its rhinos 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 to not act decisively?
Somebody had better do something out there to stop another rhino conservation moment of madness when the CITES member countries meet at their next conference in Sri Lanka in 2019.
Koro is a Johannesburg-based environmental journalist
With its ban, CITES is exercising authority without responsibility over rhino conservation in Africa