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CITES won’t legalise rhino horn trade

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Born Free Foundation has welcomed a decision by delegates at CITES to reject Swaziland’s proposal to sell off its rhino horn.
The proposal, which would have enabled Swaziland to sell just over 300kg of stockpiled rhino horn, followed by around 20kg each year derived from its small population of white rhinos, was defeated by 100 votes to 26, with 17 countries abstaining.
Born Free’s associate director Mark Jones, who also co-chairs the Species Survival Network’s Rhino Working Group, says: “Rhino poaching continues to be a big problem as criminal gangs slaughter these ancient and noble animals to supply horns into valuable illegal markets in Asia, for use in traditional medicines, as a high-end gift, or as a recreational substance for the nouveau riche.
“However, efforts to protect rhinos through tougher legislation, enforcement and judicial processes, and to reduce demand through public education, are beginning to show signs of working.
“Allowing Swaziland to trade legally would have undermined these efforts by legitimising rhino horn in the eyes of consumers, increasing demand and putting rhinos at greater risk of poaching. The world’s governments sent a clear message today that rhino horns belongs to rhinos, and is not for sale.”
Born Free’s president and CEO, Will Travers, adds: “Defeat of this potentially disastrous proposal does not, in itself, mean that poaching levels will come down. It is vital that international community comes forward with resources and expertise to assist Rhino range states to better protect their rhino through a suite of measures including: higher levels of more effective protection in the field; greater investment in intelligence gathering bringing criminal networks to court; support for prosecuting authorities, backed up by deterrent sentencing; infiltration and disruption of the transport networks that are used to move rhino horn illegally from source to market; and greater efforts to drive demand reduction through education and the application of political will.”
Fewer than 30 000 rhinos belonging to five species exist across parts of Africa and Asia. More than 6 000 have been killed by poachers across Africa over the past decade, mostly in South Africa, and India lost almost 100 of its one-horned rhinos between 2013-2015.
In addition to rejecting the Swaziland proposal, the CITES meeting agreed a range of measures that should help improve rhino protection and reduce demand for horn.