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October 27, 2011

Urgent Call for Moratorium on Trophy Hunting to Save South African Rhinos

Humane Society International/United Kingdom

  • A rhino hunting moratorium would help protect these remarkable animals. Jason Prince/iStockphoto

LONDON—Humane Society International has called for an immediate moratorium on trophy hunting of rhinos in South Africa to help save the species. The call comes as South Africa’s public consultation process on rhino conservation draws to a close [1]. Legal trophy hunting is being used by criminals to facilitate the illegal but lucrative trade in rhino horn for the Chinese medicine market.

Rhino poaching has skyrocketed in recent years. From 2000 to 2007 there were on average 12 rhino poaching incidents reported annually. That figure has jumped dramatically, with 333 rhinos reported to have been killed for their horns in 2010 in South Africa alone [2]. The figure for 2011 has already well exceeded 300 and is projected to exceed 400 by the end of the year. Despite these high poaching levels, South Africa was reported to have granted 143 rhino trophy hunting permits this year.

Mark Jones, veterinarian and executive director of HSI UK, said:

“Rhino poaching has reached a crisis point and the problem in South Africa is particularly acute. Legal trophy hunting is being used by criminals as a front to facilitate the illegal export of horn for Chinese medicine. A moratorium on hunting is the only way to stop this conservation crisis before trophies become the only thing we have left to remind us of these remarkable animals.”

While most rhino populations are protected from all international trade by virtue of their listing on Appendix I of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), white rhinos in South Africa and Swaziland were down-listed to Appendix II in 1994 and 2004 respectively, to allow trade in live animals and trophies. South Africa’s Minister for Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has acknowledged that trophy hunting is a problem, and in August of this year suggested that a hunting moratorium was under consideration [3]. However, no such action has been taken to date.

CITES has stressed the need to address the issue of people who “engage in purportedly legal hunting but whose actual intention is to obtain animal body parts that can be sold on the black market” [4].  HSI’s research in Vietnam shows that rhino horn is selling for an average of £38,000 per kg.

Mark Carwardine, BBC zoologist and conservationist, said:

“Given the awful fact that 95 percent of all the worlds rhinos have been killed for their horn in my lifetime, we must take urgent action now. There need to be tighter controls on the current trophy hunting legislation to stop further abuses of the system which has been contributing to the recent upsurge in rhino poaching.”


Notes to Editors:

 1. Public consultation closes 30 October 2011. Read the consultation [PDF]

 2. View a list of rhino poaching statistics [PDF]

 3. Statement by Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa

 4. CITES SC61 Doc. 45.1. [PDF]

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Humane Society International/UK and its partner organisations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organisations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands-on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at hsiuk.org.

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