Impassioned interventions made yesterday by rhinoceros range States were quite literally bringing tears to the eyes of some delegates attending the Standing Committee. The appalling threat and suffering that face rhino populations across Africa was truly horrifying to hear.
The Democratic Republic of Congo spoke of how it was once proud of its endemic northern white rhino population. However, the poaching situation has resulted in a 3 year search for any remaining white rhinos, and in that time DRC have found no trace of a single surviving individual. In all likelihood, DRC’s northern white rhinos are now extinct.
Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana also spoke of the ‘unprecedented’ and ‘grave’ threats facing their rhino populations. Most countries agreed that enforcement efforts would be useless in the absence of a concerted effort to reduce demand in Asia.
Pleas by range States for consumer States to take urgent action, however, did not stimulate a positive response. China and Japan were strongly of the opinion that measures to persuade the public that rhino horn has little or no medical efficacy, and should not be used in Traditional Asian Medicine, would fall on deaf ears.
The UK reported shocking statistics – that illicit rhino horn now demands more money on the black market than heroin, being equivalent in value to crack cocaine.
The real question is whether or not the measures approved by CITES can take effect fast enough to protect remaining rhino populations, before the situation in DRC is replicated across other parts of Africa. Time will tell.