Endangered rhinos are back on the global news agenda this week, as South African governmental officials released a statement on Monday, with news of a potential new strategy to legalise rhino horn trade.
image via npr.com
South Africa’s Environment Minister Edna Molewa issued a formal invitation to the public, environmental organisations and conservation stakeholders to garner opinion on whether or not they should start selling rhino horns legally to the countries where rhino horn is in demand – Eastern nations, including China and Vietnam.
A ban on the sale of rhino horn was enforced nearly thirty years ago, in an attempt to challenge the rise in rhino poaching and support conservation. However, the ban has done little to stop rhino poaching nor lessen the demand for rhino horn.
South Africa has lost 496 rhino in 2014 – considering we are just at the mid-year point, it is estimated that 2014’s total number of rhinos killed will exceed that of last year. Kruger National Park has seen the highest number of rhinos lost to poaching, at 321 since January – a figure that gives an average of 2.7 rhinos killed per day.
If the rate of rhino poaching is not slowed, and existing number of rhinos killed per day maintains, South Africa will lose an estimated 1,000 rhinos by the end of 2014.
With the Department of Environmental affairs taking this next step to investigate the feasibility of selling rhino horn, it is hoped that the number of rhinos killed annually will reduce and eventually bring an end to the slaughter.
The notion of selling rhino horn legally, is one that generates a great deal of controversy locally and internationally among conservationists, environmental organisations and others passionate about rhino conservation. The fear is that in legalising the trade, the government would instigate an unsustainable demand and undermine existing efforts in rhino conservation.
In this past week, the Environmental Investigation Agency and the International Rhino Foundation also announced that they are petitioning the Obama Administration of the United States government to impose trade sanctions against Mozambique in response to their hand in rhino poaching. Mozambique has demonstrated little accountability to the fact nearly 90% of rhino poachers are operating or trading from the country. The Obama administration is authorised under the Pelly Amendment to enact trade sanctions against any nation certified to be undermining an international conservation agreement.
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