Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Rhino horn! To trade, or not to trade?

16 July 2013

Categories: Wildlife Trade News

Rhino Side Event intervention – CITES CoP16, Bangkok, Thailand

Although there was no proposal on trade on the table, rhinos were a hot issue at the last CITES CoP.  Will Travers (Born Free’s CEO)  attended an evening presentation hosted by the Government of South Africa in the form of Minister Edna Molewa at the Imperial Queens Park Hotel, on the 7th March and, after extensive presentations by hunters, private rhino owners, economists and an MP, other organisations were given the opportunity to comment and to ask questions.  Below is what Will Travers asked the panel:  

“Yes, thank you very much. Will Travers from the Born Free Foundation, also a member of the Species Survival Network and I associate myself with many of the comments made by Dr Augustine just now. 

Minister, Ambassador and guests, I’m confused I have to say at best, but I am also desperately unconvinced, desperately unconvinced, by the arguments that have been made. I think the only people who will be happy hearing the presentation this evening will be the poaching community. We’ve heard about sales accounting to 4.5 tonnes,  four thousand five hundred kilos a year.

Double it, just double it, say 9 tonnes a year, 1.5 grams a dose that is going to give you 6,000,000 doses. My understanding is that in the Far-East the recommended dose rate is daily, daily, 6,000,000 doses will be gone in a snap. You will not be able to do what those who supported the legalisation, the legal trade in ivory in 2008 hoped would happen, which is to satisfy demand. It will simply not happen.  Using market economics to try and control demand, as has been postulated here - and I understand that principle; you have a certain amount of product, demand is too high, you turn up the heat, you make it more costly, you ostensibly drive the demand down. The poaching community will undercut you at every single turn, they will say if it is being sold legally at 50, 60, 68, 70, 80, turn it up some more - $1,000 a kilo - we’ll sell it at $50, $40. They will still make a killing from that process. 

The private rhino owners association says it is not about money, the honourable MP says it is. What I would suggest to you, honourable panel, is this is a huge risk that you are contemplating, I am not saying the solutions will be easy, but it is a huge risk that you are contemplating. It is likely to incentivise poaching, it is likely to unleash uncontrollable demand, and it is likely to impose huge costs both on yourselves and on other countries with rhino populations, costs which can simply not be afforded. And that was my comment. I had one really short question, do you believe that rhino horn works? Would any of you in the room put their hand up if you think rhino horn works [no-one raised a hand]. If you think it works, you will then sell rhino horn and you will legitimise something that every single credible scientist says does not work and you have left yourselves in the most appalling dilemma. Thank you.”

On the 3rd of July the South African Government decided to approve a process which would mean that a Proposal for legalising rhino horn trade would be submitted by South Africa at the seventeenth Conference of the Parties which they are hosting in 2016.

For more information about the Proposal please visit Will’s Blog: CEOs Blog

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