Czech Republic and Slovakia reunite to Lead Global Rhino Horn Burning Ceremony

Czech and Slovak Republic reunite to Lead Global Rhino Horn Burning Ceremony
Thursday, 18 September, 2014
Dvůr Králové Zoo, Czech Republic

On Sunday, September 21st, eve of World Rhino Day, the Czech and Slovak governments will reunite in a joint effort to raise public awareness on the plight of rhinos.

At 11am at Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic and Bratislava Zoo in Slovakia, Ministers for Environment for both countries will set alight seized illegal and stockpiled rhino horns in a gesture symbolising the world has reached the 11th hour to save rhinos.

In the Czech Republic, Minister of Environment, Richard Brabec, will set alight approximately 70 kg of rhino horns at the burning ceremony at Dvůr Králové.

At the same time, the Slovakian Minister of the Environment, Peter Žiga, will hold a similar event in Bratislava where they will destroy eight rhino horns seized in a joint operation with the Czech authorities. Both called out to other European governments and zoos across the continent to destroy their ivory horns, to symbolize the common sentiment.

Azzedine Downes, IFAW President and CEO, said of this initiative, “Europol estimates global wildlife trafficking to be worth €18- to 26-billion per year. Europe has to play its part to stop the organized criminal gangs involved in the brutal business of wildlife trafficking. The EU needs to do more to build law enforcement capacity and public awareness both in Europe and in the countries where these endangered species live and are at risk.”

The Czech Environmental Inspectorate, the government enforcement institution involved in the control of international trade in endangered species, said, “The Czech Republic has recently become a country that is a considerable contributor to this illegal trade and through which rhino horns are smuggled to Asian countries. Unfortunately the number of these cases is still growing…. Demonstrative and symbolic burning rhinoceros horns from stockpile of zoo and confiscated horns too on the occasion of the Rhino World Day is a very beneficial step that will contribute to public awareness of this problem and can help to a greater awareness of the work of Czech enforcement authorities too.”

One of the guest speakers for the event, Secretary-General of CITES, John E. Scanlon stated: "the destruction of confiscated rhino horn will not put an end to the illegal trade. However, coupled with the seizure of rhino horn and the prosecution and conviction of offenders, it sends a powerful public message that the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic do not accept and will not tolerate this illegal trade or the devastating impact it is having on the rhino and on the livelihoods of local communities."

The burn comes at a time of unprecedented poaching for and trafficking of rhino horn. In South Africa, where poaching of rhinoceros is at its worst, 769 rhinos have already been killed for their horns since January 2014. Last year 1004 rhino lost their lives to poachers, up from 333 in 2010.

The world famous Kruger National Park (KNP) is worst hit by poachers – this year 489 rhinos have been killed in the KNP. Nationally 227 rhino poachers have been arrested in 2014.

Worldwide, South Africa is the only country which declares regular, monthly figures for poaching of its rhinos. Rhinos are known to have been poached in other African and Asian countries, but accurate information for these countries is not available.

Last year the Czech Republic seized 24 White rhino horns and arrested 16 suspects in connection with wildlife trafficking. The authorities announced that an international gang had been importing rhino horns illegally into the Czech Republic, from where they were to be shipped to Asia for sale. According to reports the gang used bogus hunters to kill the animals in South Africa, who then applied for export/import trophies to move the horns under the pretext of being personal trophies.

The ceremony comes under the shadow of recent statements made by South Africa announcing its intentions to apply for legal trade in rhino horn at the next meeting of the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) CoP17.

Peter Pueschel, IFAW’s Director for International Environmental Agreements, who will speak at the burning ceremony at Dvůr Králové, said of South Africa’s intentions, “Re-opening legal trade could well spell the death knell for wild rhino populations around the world. South Africa’s strategy ignores a host of biological, ecological and ethical values, emphasizing only the economic value of rhinos, dead or alive. What’s more, even in economic terms, their arguments fall flat as legal trade could increase the need for costly enforcement capacity in other market and range countries to unaffordable levels”.

He went on to say, “We need governments to follow the Czech and Slovak examples and send a clear signal that there will be “no future trade in rhino horn, if we are to crack the vicious cycle of consumer demand and poaching”.

Notes to Editors

Zoos destroying their Rhino horns:

  • France - Bioparc - Doué-la-Fontaine Zoo
  • UK - Port Lympne Reserve and Howletts WAP
  • Poland - Zoo Wroclaw
  • Estonia - Zoo Tallinn

Rhino population statistics (information from TRAFFIC):

African species:

  • Black rhino, 4,838
  • White rhino: approximately 20,000
  • South African rhino population: 1,916 black; 18,780 white

Asian species:

  • Greater-one horned: 2,913
  • Javan: no more than 50
  • Sumatran: fewer than 200

Rhino poaching statistics (information from South African Department of Environmental Affairs):

2014 – 769 (as of 11 September 2014)

2013 – 1004

2012 – 668

2011 – 448

2010 – 333

Rhino poaching arrests statistics:

2014 – 227 (as of 11 September 2014)

2013 – 343

2012 – 267

2011 – 232

2010 – 165

Worldwide, South Africa is the only country which declares regular, monthly figures for poaching of its rhinos. Rhinos are known to have been poached in other African and Asian countries, but accurate information for these countries is not available.

  • The burn will be attended by famous conservationists Tony Fitzjohn, and by Monika Leova, Miss Earth Czech Republic 2013. Ms Leova, of Vietnamese origins, will be attending to highlight the need for greater work with consumers to reduce demand.

·IFAW has partnered with a series of countries to destroy their ivory. Over the last 18 months this includes China, France, Belgium and USA.

  • Currently all international commercial trade in rhino is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Pro-trade advocates are lobbying the government of South Africa to propose an end to the trade ban at the next general meeting of CITES in 2016, to be held in South Africa.
  • IFAW’s independent report, Horn of Contention, about the economics of trade in endangered wildlife in general and on rhino horn in particular, states that of the papers supporting trade in rhino horn, none are peer reviewed, and offer little empirical evidence to support these views.  Under certain conditions the assumptions they make to validate their claims may hold, but it is unclear if these conditions are in place in either supplying or consuming countries. What is clear is that there is a gaping hole of sound economic research on rhino horn trade and, in fact, an equally large data gap of validated market demand in general for other wildlife trade concentrated in Asia, including elephant and rhinos. IFAW therefore shares the conclusions of the independent economists that called for further research to be undertaken before any formal steps are taken towards legalising trade in rhino horn.
  • As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. The organization recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with INTERPOL, the first ever signed by Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including INTERPOL’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.

END

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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