While South Africa has announced its support for some of the outcomes of the London Summit on Wildlife Crime, it appears that Environment Minister Molewa is, in some respects, at odds with the international mood and swimming against the tide of public opinion.
The Minister declares she is “fighting against rhino poaching and not against sustainable utilization. Any default policy change leading to non-utilization, done in the name of anti-poaching is clearly problematic as it goes against our principles of sustainable utilisation.”
However, she seems blind to the reality that it is legal trade and talk about legal trade that is fuelling speculation and poaching.
Legalising ivory trade in 2008, when South Africa sold part of its ivory stocks to China, lead to exponential growth in elephant poaching, illegal trade and the price of raw ivory.
South Africa’s continuing desire to apply to the international community for legal rhino horn sales at the CITES (Convention on international trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting due to be held there in 2016 is doing nothing to dampen down rhino poaching and restore protection to this beleaguered species.
Other countries, longstanding supporters of wildlife trade, such as Botswana and Tanzania, are seemingly more in tune with the growing international agenda of zero tolerance. Botswana has declared that it will put its ivory stockpile beyond commercial use (and has introduced a ban on trophy hunting), while Tanzania’s President has committed to the destruction of his country’s 80 tonne ivory mountain (a staggering 180,000 pounds of ivory).
Unless South Africa seriously revises its current strategy towards wildlife utilisation, especially when it concerns species under severe pressure right across Africa, it is in danger of finding itself increasingly isolated as the rest of the world falls in step with the new zero tolerance agenda.