By Brendon Bosworth
In the face of rampant rhino poaching in South Africa, some conservationists and private rhino farmers are lobbying for removal of the international ban on rhino horn trading and the creation of a legal market, to quell poaching.
"The trade ban is creating a situation where rhinos are being killed unnecessarily," Duan Biggs, research fellow at the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at Australia's University of Queensland, told IPS. "It's taking resources away from other conservation efforts, and is leading to the situation where there's a pseudo war taking place in the Kruger National Park."
The South African government is exploring this option and could make a proposal at the 2016 Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to allow it to open up rhino horn sales. That would require support from a two-thirds majority of the 178 member states.
Proposals to lift the ban, which has been in place since 1977, have sparked debate about whether a legal market would actually curb poaching. Opponents worry that it would stimulate the black market trade that exists in parts of Asia, where rhino horn sells for 65,000 dollars a kilogramme – more than gold or cocaine – and is touted as a cure for hangovers and an aphrodisiac in countries like Vietnam.
But advocates say it would be the solution to the poaching crisis.
Last year, poachers killed 668 rhinos in South Africa, mainly in the Kruger National Park, which houses the world's largest population of white rhino.
In an Apr. 3 press statement, the government said that the number of rhinos killed since the start of 2013 totalled 203. Poaching has roughly doubled each year over the past five years in South Africa.
If poaching continues at the current rate, the Kruger National Park's rhino population will start to decline from 2016, according to South African National Parks researchers. Worse, scientists estimate that if poaching accelerates, Africa's rhino could be extinct in the wild in just 20 years. More....