After my last Rhino Blog (and the many comments – for which thanks)….. MORE RHINO NEWS!
So, a big day in Hong Kong (Monday 14th November): Customs’ officials intercepted over 758 ivory chopsticks, 127 carved ivory bracelets AND 33 rhino horns, weighing over 86 kilos. Astronomical prices and ludicrous claims that rhino horn cures cancer (from Vietnam) mean poaching pressure on wild rhino all over the world is relentless. Some say, let’s legalise the trade (particularly those who “own” rhino in southern Africa and who would stand to make millions of dollars). They contend that they could meet demand in China and that this would reduce poaching.
However, this idea is nothing new and legalisation of other high-value wildlife products in the past have completely failed to protect the species concerned. Attempts to meet the demand for ivory, for example, have been an unmitigated disaster. Since the 100 tonne ivory stockpile sale in 2009 to China and Japan, poaching levels have been distressingly high, nearly 30 tonnes of illegal ivory seized so far this year alone (so the full extent of the trade is likely to be four or five times higher), and the price of illegal ivory has shot up to around US$1,500 a kilo. No sign of demand being met there!
Pro-trade exponents claim that they can provide a sustainable supply of ‘ranched’ horn from their rhino and that this will reduce pressure on wild populations. That’s not what tiger conservationists believe. China has thousands of captive tigers whose ‘owners’ are pushing hard for the legalisation of trade (obviously to make a killing in more ways than one), again claiming that this will reduce pressure on wild tigers. However, conservation professionals and wildlife trade specialists believe that the poaching community will always target wild tigers because they are a ‘premium product’. I think that’s exactly what will happen with rhino.
Two measures are urgently needed:
1. Far more effective and well-resourced rhino protection in wild rhino range States with co-ordinated intelligence gathering and law enforcement across borders; and
2. A major public re-education programme in consumer countries such as China, supported at the highest possible political level.
Last year, Vladimir Putin hosted a Tiger Summit in St Petersburg to generate the international political backing for a global mission not just to save the world’s wild tigers but to double the number of wild tigers in the next ten years or so.
What about a Rhino Summit to deliver the political muscle, financial commitment and enforcement effort to turn this situation around?
Please forward far and wide if you can!