(BANGKOK, THAILAND) – Country representatives meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, for the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) today discussed urgent issues relating to the protection of rhinoceroses against a backdrop of massive poaching and illegal rhino horn trade, which has resulted in more than 140 rhino poached in South Africa alone since the start of 2013.
After intense Working Group deliberations this week, CITES adopted a series of important recommendations for strengthening national legislation and enforcement and measures to reduce the demand for rhino horn. CITES will promote international collaboration on law enforcement, including the use of technologies and legal mechanisms to combat organised crime. Additionally, Parties were encouraged to adopt stricter domestic measures to prevent the movement of rhino horn across national borders.
“The decisions agreed at this meeting ask Parties to increase controls on rhino horn poaching, trade and consumption, particularly in countries like Mozambique where so many poachers operate along the border with South Africa, and Vietnam where much of the illegal horn ends up”, said Mark Jones, Executive Director of Humane Society International/UK and Co-Chair of the Species Survival Network Rhino Working Group. “It’s encouraging to see attention focused where it is needed most and CITES nations collectively and loudly calling for tightening of trade controls and stricter penalties for illegal activities – but more must be done to save rhinos before it’s too late.”
Fuelled by rapidly increasing demand in the Far East, particularly in Vietnam where rhino horn can command prices of up to US$65,000/kg (US$27,000 a pound), the surge in rhino poaching, which has seen close to 2,000 rhinos killed for their horns in South Africa alone since 2007, shows no sign of abating. Organised criminal syndicates are often behind these brutal rhino fatalities. If poaching continues to rise at current rates, experts predict the world’s rhino populations could start to crash in just three years.
SSN remains concerned about long-term plans within South Africa for reopening rhino horn trade. A high-level South African delegation, led by Environment Minister Edna Molewa, held several side events and debates in Bangkok ‘testing the water’ as to how a future pro-trade rhino horn proposal might be received. “The South African authorities are clearly coming under huge pressure from the private ranchers, who own around a quarter of the country’s rhinos,” said Jones. “These ranchers are sitting on rhino horn that is worth a small fortune, and are looking for a way of realising its value. However, legalising rhino horn isn’t going to help conserve wild rhinos, and could well make the situation a whole lot worse by further stimulating demand and allowing illegal horn to be laundered into a legal market. Vietnam and China, the likely consumer countries, are in no position to effectively regulate a legal market in rhino horn and the results could be catastrophic.”