Rhino Horn of Contention – the Only Thing Certain is Uncertainty

Rhino Horn of Contention – the Only Thing Certain is Uncertainty
Tuesday, 8 April, 2014
Cape Town, South Africa

The South African Government could choose to be a global player or a lonely outlier by alienating itself from unprecedented international efforts to crack down on illicit trade and poaching of wildlife such as rhinoceroses, IFAW said today.

Jason Bell, Director IFAW Southern Africa, said the SA Government had been actively lobbying to gain support for legalised trade in Rhino horn.

“IFAW believes the only certainty of the impact of legalising trade in rhino horn in an attempt to save them from poachers is uncertainty. It is far too risky an experiment to consider whispering about in government corridors. Only decisions made on sound science should be discussed,” said Bell.

Today, conservationists from around the world are gathered in Pretoria, South Africa at the International Conference to Assess the Risk of Rhino Horn Trade.

Bell said a review commissioned by IFAW of studies on the economics of trade in endangered species and rhino horn in particular found there to be real risk that regulated trade could drive an increase in poaching. The outcomes of the review by Australian based Economists at Large, are contained in Horn of Contention: A Review of Literature on the Economics of Trade in Rhino Horn.

“In the face of this uncertainty, just how much risk should be tolerated? The questions are not solely economic. There are political and ethical considerations and questions of international credibility. By March 14 this year 172 rhinos had been poached in South Africa, last year the total was 1004.

“Given the international attention that illegal wildlife trade, rhino horn and elephant ivory in particular, are receiving there is little chance of South Africa’s gaining permission to sell horn from the next meeting of CITES (CoP 17 of the Conference on International Trade in Endangered Species) in 2016,” said Bell.

“Following through on such a proposal would be politically naïve and would fly in the face of unprecedented international efforts to clamp down on illicit wildlife trade and poaching. It will not only be bad for rhinos but bad for international relations too.

“IFAW believes South Africa should stand together with the international community in putting pressure on countries like Vietnam and China, which are consumers of rhino horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife, to do everything possible to eliminate demand.

“By doing so South Africa would show the world that it values its rhino on ecological, symbolistic and moral grounds, and not utilitarian ones,” Bell concluded.

Wildlife crime ranks among the most serious, dangerous and damaging of international crimes along with human trafficking, drug running and illegal arms sales.

Editors: Please download a pdf version of Horn of Contention: A Review of Literature on the Economics of Trade in Rhino Horn.


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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