By Mark Riley Caldwell
Legalising the trade of rhino horn and elephant ivory would not stop poaching and illegal trading, and would instead increase the demand for endangered animal products, the head of the Environmental Investigation Agency has said.
EIA executive director Mary Rice said suggestions to introduce a regulated international market were simply “academic postulating” - and in practice, would make it much harder to detect and prosecute illegal trading.
Speaking at a debate organised by environmental research organisation Earthwatch at the Royal Geographical Society on 17 October, Rice said: “Legal trade is not the solution for the long term survival of elephants and rhinos in the wild. “Opening markets without fully understanding the impact of these markets is extremely high risk - and even if it is just slightly off the mark, it is irreversible.”
She also said allowing legal trade would muddy the waters - making it impossible to tell whether rhino horn or ivory had come from a legal source or not.
“How do you tell that the powdered rhino horn you have been offered is legal? If a product is banned, everyone knows it is illegal. It seems to make perfect sense to me that a ban is more straightforward and clear cut.”
The debate followed lobbying from some conservationists and private rhino farmers for the member countries of The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to drop the current agreement to ban rhino horn, elephant ivory and tiger bone and skin. More....