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SA to propose legalising rhino horn trade


It was reported recently that the South African government is considering tabling a proposal to delegates attending the Cites’ 17th. Conference of the Parties (COP17), to be held in Durban in 2016, to legalise the international trade in rhino horn. This news has been greeted with shock and incredulity by numerous wildlife conservation groups – both locally, as well as internationally.


Will Travers, of the Born Free Foundation, has already said that South Africa risks “huge embarrassment” with Cites by even considering submitting such a proposal, further adding that SA was likely to receiver very little support from other countries. Travers has also firmly stated that it would be virtually impossible for South Africa to garner “anywhere near” the number of votes required to form the majority required to pass such a resolution. “You know what I’d say to SA? Don’t bother. Don’t do it. It’s hugely embarrassing to go to the conference and get only 30 votes on the table,” he said. “its happened in the past where people walk out sweating and feeling ill – and you’re the host country!”


Travers was speaking at a conference held by Outraged Citizens Against Poaching on the risks of a potential rhino horn trade in Pretoria recently. “Save a rhino, Kill a poacher,” read posters leading to the venue. In further comment, Mary Rice, director of the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency said “I don’t think South Africa can get enough support. The issue would be completely divisive at the Cites meeting.” She further commented that she did not know why SA was being so “tunnel-visioned”. “It may have something to do with the strength of the private rhino owners and their lobbying. And so it is in their best interests… They would benefit from any market.” “Legal trade does not work and can never work… It’s not about conservation, it’s about personal gain – or government gain in this case.”


South Africa, seemingly has not yet learnt the lesson that legalising a trade does not necessarily make the problem go away. Just like the ivory trade, it is not possible to legalise a high-value product, and then sit back and wonder why elephant poaching goes off the charts. With SA’s rhino population – despite the best efforts of numerous wildlife and conservation organisations – being slaughtered wholesale at a rate of more than two rhino every single day, surely it is time for our government to, for once, look beyond greed, avarice and short-term financial gain for a select few cronies in the fat-cat club and to, for once and for all, stamp out all aspects of this vile trade before mankind eradicates one more species from the face of the earth.

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