Rhino Poaching - Stop The Demand! Say NO to trade!
Hello Ellen and everyone, my name is Kelly Pretorius and I am senior administrator of Save Our Rhino on Facebook. Every single day I see the decimation of our national heritage, our precious rhino, perpetuated by the demand for a bogus traditional medicine from the East. Not only are they using their horn as medicine, but it is also being used as a status symbol and carved into libation cups and dagger handles, or just left whole to sit on a mantlepiece to display wealth.
It is astounding that there are people in South Africa, perhaps encouraged by government Ministers, private rhino owners and pseudo-economists, who think that the best way forward to defeat the rhino poachers operating freely in my country, is a fanciful scheme to trade rhino horns on the open market.
This proposal for legalizing trade is based on nothing more than a wish to cash in on eye-watering profits that a single kilo or pound of rhino horn can bring. Rhino horn these days, weight for weight, is worth more than gold and cocaine – but only on the backstreet illegal markets of Laos, Vietnam and China. Possession and sale of rhino horn products have actually been illegal in those countries since 1994.
The pro-trade movement is currently confined to South Africa, but there might be some support from Namibia and Zimbabwe to cash in on the potential windfall. The South African government wants to put this proposal to CITES (the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna) and has organized a concerted campaign to make this happen ever since 2012. But such trade requires a “partner” in Asia who will agree to allow commerce in a currently illegal product. This is not likely to happen given the overwhelming public mood in countries like Vietnam and China where people are beginning to wake up to the massive destruction of Africa’s wildlife that their demand for products has created. A positive CITES vote needs a 2/3 majority of member states to the Convention, and already South Africa will struggle to bring a handful of positive votes to the table.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Asian countries like China and Vietnam have been responsible for the huge demand in rhino horn products that has caused prices to rise through the roof. These countries and others in the region have always wanted rhino horn. The trade is centuries old. But the demand has never been as big as it is now – most likely fueled by a massive growth of disposable income among Vietnamese and Chinese people.
South Africa has only recently become the target of rhino horn poachers. South Africa must realize and acknowledge that before they became a haven for poachers, rhinos were already being eradicated in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia – in fact all across the African continent. And don’t forget Asia – Vietnam’s last one remaining indigenous rhino was poached a few years ago, and poaching has destroyed rhino populations in Indonesia, Malaysia, India and other countries where Asian rhinos occur.
South Africa is just one country experiencing the consequences of the illegal rhino horn trade. Therefore, as South Africa still contains a relatively large population of both white and black rhinos, this country should be positively and constructively engaged in finding ways forward to stem the trade. Legalizing the trade is the most nonsensical way forward to promote conservation of rhino species worldwide.
It should be noted that South Africa has long been engaged in a “semi-legal” trade of rhino horns. South African authorities allowed a “national” trade of rhino horns that “somehow” managed to enter the international black market. South African authorities allowed “pseudo hunting” of rhinos – a process whereby “hunters” were recruited even from the ranks of local Thai sex workers, who were given permits by local authorities to export their derived horns. South African private rhino horn owners have “suffered” many thefts of their horn stockpiles supposedly secured in safes.
In short, South Africa has been feeding and encouraging the demand for rhino horns even though such trade is illegal. South Africa is therefore not a country in any way to be trusted with any sort of legal trade in rhino horns. South Africa is a country that is unfortunately engaged in a high level of corruption which will not suit any means of ensuring that the proposed “legal” rhino horns involved in trade will not come from poached animals.
In addition, many individuals in South Africa now want to legally trade rhino horns from their private stocks. This cannot happen under CITES regulations despite what our government tells them. It is all a mess and a muddle that any sane person should reject. It is aimed at short-term profit taking rather than a coherent plan to conserve rhinos. Private rhino owners have not, to date, shown to have been in any significant way involved in rhino “conservation” but rather, most engage in profit taking from a species that has become a convenient commodity.
As a last issue to consider, in the highly unlikely event that legal rhino horn sales were to be allowed by CITES on the international market, profits made should not benefit individuals or Government officials, but rather be ploughed into legitimate and registered rhino conservation programs.
Given South Africa’s complete failure to implement similar programs for elephants when CITES allowed them a “one-off” sale of ivory most recently in 2008, why should we then believe that a rhino horn sale will benefit rhinos? A legal trade in rhino horns will never conserve a single rhino, but will instead open up the market floodgates and consumers who have never used rhino horn before, will want to buy them. Encouraging demand by legalising trade of rhino horn will simply mean that no rhino will ever be safe in the wild again.
What is needed is international resolve, a commitment to stop what can only be described nowadays as state sponsored poaching, and a rejection by all who now have rhino horn stockpiles to see those as in any way “valuable”. Demand reduction campaigns in user countries need to be implemented on a national basis, shame campaigns need to go viral, as they did for the fur trade and a horn devaluation programme, through the pioneering Rhino Rescue Project needs to be implemented immediately, rendering the horn useless to consumers.
I am really hoping you will be able to help me get the word out there about the current poaching crisis we are facing in my beautiful country. Our rhino are running out of time and it won't be too long before they are all gone. In a desperate attempt to conserve them, our government are shipping them out to other countries they are not indigenous to. This is going to have a hugely negative impact on our ecosystem eventually. Please help me save our rhino!
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