By Ian Michler
'Those who oppose the legalisation of trade in rhino horn as the panacea for the continent's rhino poaching crisis have long cautioned against the use of simplistic economic modelling as a basis to justify this stance,' Ian Michler, a specialist wilderness guide, writes in the Cape Times.
'Now, in the first of what is likely to be many more convincing critiques, a report that raises considerable doubt over the approaches used by pro-trade economists and consultants has been published,' he notes. 'Compiled by Economists at Large (EcoLarge) and released by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the report sounds a clear and persuasive warning against pro-trade policies as a way of reducing poaching pressures on rhino,' says Michler. 'After reviewing a selection of literature on wildlife trade in general and the economics of trade in rhino horn in particular, the report highlights the risks involved in legalising the trade,' he explains, noting that it concludes that, 'economic logic does not suggest that a legal trade in rhino horn would necessarily reduce poaching of rhino in Africa. Under certain conditions this may occur, but there is little empirical evidence cited in these papers to suggest that these conditions are currently in place'. 'This report highlights the uncertainty and risk involved with the current economic modelling underpinning the legalisation lobby,' says Michler, concluding that: 'with the extinction of rhino at stake, it is difficult to see how the global regulatory authorities would be able to allow changes to the current no-trade policies'.