CITES maintains vital protections for rhino

Humane Society International / Global

Vanessa Mignon

GENEVA—In a great relief to conservationists, governments at the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have shown no appetite for lifting bans on trade in rhinos and their horns.

The government of Eswatini had put forward a dangerous proposal to downgrade protection for its tiny southern white rhino population from Appendix I to Appendix II in order to allow commercial trade in rhino parts included its horn.

Namibia had proposed downgrading its rhino population to Appendix II in order to allow commercial trade in live animals and hunting trophies. The populations of both countries are highly vulnerable to poaching.

Adam Peyman, HSI’s Wildlife Programs and Operations Manager, says “The international trade in rhino horn has been banned since 1977, and to reopen it would be a disaster for the survival and welfare of this magnificent species. So seeing Eswatini’s dangerous proposal defeated at CITES is a huge relief for all of us dedicated to preserving the rhino for future generations. There are only 66 southern white rhinos left in the wild in Eswatini, so opening up trade internationally in their horn would not only almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin for this species nationally, but it would very likely result in increased poaching in other rhino range states in Asia and Africa, as well as increased demand for horn in Asia. Law enforcement officers are struggling enough as it is to hold back the tide of rhino poaching and trafficking. To have a hope of saving rhinos from extinction, the ban on global commercial trade needs to hold firm.” 

There are only 1,037 southern white rhino left in the wild in Namibia, and across Africa they are considered Near Threatened, so defeating Namibia’s attempt to reduce CITES protections was an important victory for the survival of this species. Namibia’s conviction rate for poaching is already woefully inadequate so any reduction in protections would have been highly dangerous and irresponsible,” said Mr. Peyman.

The decisions will need to be approved in a plenary session at the CITES meeting on August 27/28.


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