By Richard Conniff
At a recent mediation session in Cape Town, activists for and against legalized trade in rhino horns met to find common ground on saving rhinos in the wild. Both were mainly worried by the rising toll of animals being poached in South Africa, up to 1215 last year, from almost none in 2007. Here’s an excerpt from the report in South Africa’s Daily Maverick:
All participants agreed that, in the light of likely voting patterns when CITES members next meet in Cape Town (in March 2016), it is unrealistic to expect any changes to the legislation for the trade in rhino products. Indeed, it appears that even if successfully motivated, legalisation in the trade of rhino products would not happen within the next decade, at which point, based on current poaching statistics, rhinos in the wild could well be extinct. In fact, without a collaborative and united approach all parties present agreed that the fate of rhinos in the wild is dismal.There was also a collective acknowledgement that some one in seven South Africans depend on a thriving tourism industry for their income. The country’s reputation as a Big Five destination could well suffer if rhinos were to disappear from the wild and this could impact negatively on the industry and put jobs at risk.
Another point of consensus was recognition of the fact that although South Africa is the front line in the rhino war, the crisis involves many other countries in Africa and elsewhere. Strategies to prevent rhino poaching are thus not specific to South Africa, and need to be implemented on a global scale.
Finding a viable way forward, therefore, is in the interest of rhinos and people. And with this agreed the following multi-facetted plan emerged:
- Calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities between pro- and anti-trade camps in favour of rallying around a common vision.
- Establishing efficient, effective, focused and sustainable fund-raising campaigns for rhino security and conservation.
- Securing community buy-in and co-operation in rhino conservation of rhino, especially among people living in close proximity to rhino.
- Increasing the deployment sophisticated technologies that can detect poachers long before any animal can be shot.
- Securing increased governmental compliance with constitutional and legal rules in the struggle to conserve the rhino species.
In addition to attending this meeting, Malherbe also wrote to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, pleading for a change in the ‘rules of engagement’ that currently place anti-poaching units at a distinct disadvantage when apprehending rhino poachers in the Kruger National Park."
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