rhino horn trade Archives - Rhino Review

Devastating photo of a rhino poached for its horn is more proof of how we are failing nature

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade No Comments
Shreya Chauhan, India Times | March 6, 2020

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Even though poaching is illegal in many countries, animals are still killed for their tusks, horns and skin. Sadly, Botswana recently legalised the killing of 70 elephants.

Many times wildlife photographers come across animals who have seen terrible fates. And that is what Shannon Wild, who calls herself a wildlife photographer, came across recently.

Original photo as published by India Times. (Source: Instagram)

On her Instagram, she posted a picture of a poached Southern White Rhino who seems to have been brutally decapitated for its horn. She shared the image with the caption, ‘Unfortunately this job isn’t all positive encounters. Part of this work is confronting the tragedy that these beautiful creatures face… including poaching’.

She further wrote, ‘This poor Southern White Rhino had its life brutally cut short by greed and miseducation. Rhino horn does not cure cancer, and it certainly should not be seen as a status symbol by those who use it (which it currently is due to its huge black market value), instead those who are involved should be ashamed because this is what you leave in your wake’.

The time and location of the image are not known but Shannon has credited the image to another wildlife photographer Josh Guyan. This is how some people reacted to the image. White rhinos are the second largest land mammal. A majority of southern white rhinos are found in just four countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. These mammals are classified as ‘near threatened.’ It is sad that an animal that is close to endangerment is killed for only one part of its body. Human greed knows no bound.


Logistics is so much more than just delivering the mundane

By Conservation, Relocation No Comments
The Handy Shipping Guide | February 24, 2020

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RWANDA: Logistics is often far more than simply shipping commodities around the globe and a report on the work done by aircraft charter specialist Chapman Freeborn, and its subsidiary company Intradco Animal Transport, to save the future of the black rhino in Rwanda in the past few years, deserves a mention.

We have reported previously on movements of the rare species but two missions by the company, now part of the Avia Solutions Group, have brought the black rhino back to Rwanda after it effectively disappeared over a decade ago. The Akagera Park in Rwanda was once home to 50 black rhinos in the 1970s. However, wide-spread poaching in the country saw the ultimate extinction of the mammal in the park by 2007.

Original photo as published by Handy Shipping Guide.

The rhino is considered a great symbol of Africa, but the rhino horn trade has threatened its survival. Now, there are said to be only 5,000 black rhinos in the world, and just 1,000 of those are the critically endangered Eastern black rhino. Security has been enhanced at the Akagera Park since 2010 and, now that this has been tightened after securing funding from the Howard Buffett Foundation, the park has been able to start reintroducing the Eastern black rhino.

This is the second species the park has managed to successfully return to its native haunts. In 2015, it also reintroduced lions which hadn’t been seen at the park for 15 years. Some of the security measures the park has put into place to protect its new animals include helicopter air surveillance, canine anti-poaching units and expert rhino protection and tracking teams.

Chapman Freeborn’s original involvement was in 2017 and involved transporting 19 black rhinos from Johannesburg to Kigali, Rwanda. Two Etihad Boeing 777 freighters were chartered to transport the rhinos. After arriving at their destination, they were loaded into trucks and a police escort was provided to ensure they reached the park safely.

Travelling as two groups of 10 and 9 respectively the animals had two attendants and three vets accompanying them throughout the journey and to control their temperature on the flight. The mission to transport the rhinos to the park took two weeks and was an incredibly complex process. The team at Intradco took a year to plan the move alongside Etihad Cargo. They ensured all of the permits were in place and they also accompanied the rhinos on the flights to their final destination.

The success of this first transport led to it being awarded the ‘Best Charter Logistics Project’ at that year’s Freighters World Conference Awards and led to a follow up shipment last year which saw five black rhinos travelling a full 3,700 miles from a zoo in the Czech Republic to the Akagera Park, meaning it now houses 24 rhinos and harbouring the hope that the species will once again be able to thrive in Rwanda.

Without the help of freight services, and projects such as these, it wouldn’t be possible to reintroduce these beautiful animals back where they belong and try and ensure the continuation of an entire species. It highlights just how far animal transportation services have come and a changing attitude to preserving the world we all live in.


Namibia rhino poaching drops in 2019, after sharp rise last year

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade No Comments
Reuters | December 14, 2019

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WINDHOEK: Rhino poaching in Namibia dropped to 41 individuals killed in all of 2019 so far, compared with nearly 72 during the same period last year, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism said Saturday.

Namibia has the second largest population of white rhinos in the world after South Africa and, according to NGO Save the Rhino, it holds one-third of the world’s remaining black rhinos.

Poaching in Namibia to feed mostly East Asian markets has yo-yoed since peaking in 2015 at 95 rhinos, falling to 60 in 2016, 36 in 2017 and then going up to 72 again last year – all figures counted from January through mid-December.

“The public continues to assist us in arresting perpetrators of this crime,” ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said by telephone. “We have also beefed up our intelligence so that we can anticipate poaching activities before they happen.”

Despite being composed of the same substance as hair and fingernails, rhino horn is prized in East Asia as a supposed medicine for multiple ailments, and is also prized by business elites for trinkets and other products because of its rarity.

While cracking down on poachers, Namibia is also lobbying against the rules that govern the global trade in endangered species, after other countries rejected proposals to relax restrictions on legal hunting and exporting its white rhinos.

It wants to allow more trophy hunting of rhinos and export of live animals, arguing that the funds it would raise would help it to protect the species, an argument rejected by countries that are party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in August.

The ministry’s data showed 329 people were charged with poaching offences between 2014 and 2018, of whom all were African apart from 17 Chinese.

Illegal horns trade continues to threaten Africa’s rhinos

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade No Comments
Business Daily | December 11, 2019

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The Chinese penchant for the rhino horn is driving the illegal trade in this prehistoric animal up again. With their newfound wealth, the Chinese are on a spending spree buying the horn coveted for its perceived value, ranging from trinkets to medicine that can supposedly cure anything.

The tragedy is that the rhino is from an ancient lineage dating some 60 million years ago, far longer than that of the elephant. Yet today because of our greed, the rhino is on its last leg. In the past its territory spread across much of Africa for the black rhino and white rhino. It was the same for the three Asian species — Javan, Sumatran and the Greater one-horned rhino.

Lucy Vigne has been studying the illegal trade in rhino horn since the 1980s with the late Dr Esmond Bradley Martin, who pioneered research in the business in the 1970s when he saw smuggled cargo leaving the then far-flung ancient port of Lamu. She continues with the research working towards her PhD.

Original photo as published by Business Daily: Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officer offloads part of 105 tonnes of ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horns stockpile worth billions of shillings at KWS headquarters in Nairobi on April 15, 16 ahead of a planned destruction on April 30. (FILE PHOTO | NMG )

She points to a map enlarged on a screen showing a few red dots against a sweeping swathe of green that was the range of the rhino historically. The red dots are spots on the globe where the rhino is today.

Vigne was an invited speaker for the Friends of Nairobi National Park monthly meeting held beside the national park that is a stronghold for the indigenous black rhino and the imported white from South Africa. The park is an important breeding sanctuary for this iconic animal.

“It’s history repeating itself,” says the petite rhino woman, referring to the rhino crisis in the 1970s fuelled by the Yemenis’ penchant for the traditional daggers topped with rhino horn handles after the oil boom in Saudi Arabia. Yemenis flocked to Saudi Arabia for jobs returning with dollars to buy the dagger with the rhino horn handle that was once the preserve of the rich. It’s only after the political unrest in Yemen and the economic crash that the trade went down.

“This time it’s the Chinese and Vietnamese,” she says.

Demand for rhino horn in Asia has been growing since the early 2000s, with the economic boom in China and Vietnam. It increased especially in 2008 and peaked between 2012 and 2013. The horn is still in demand, with poaching mainly in in South Africa where most rhinos are today, the majority being the white rhino.

In Kenya rhino poaching is under control because of increased conservation and anti-poaching efforts but East Africa is still a conduit for the continent’s illegal wildlife trade flowing to Asia.

The Chinese population has increased in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa building the infrastructure. The economies of China, Vietnam and Laos are the fastest growing in the world today, expanding by some six per cent per annum.

During the 1970s crisis, black rhino numbers crashed from an estimated 65,000 in 1970 to about 2,400 by 1995. Kenya’s black rhino population collapsed from 20,000 in 1970 to 400 over this time — a drastic 98 percent drop. A combination of a devastating drought in Tsavo in the 1970s, the civil wars in Sudan, Zaire (today’s DRC) and Uganda, with firearms easily available to the poachers to hunt elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns, caused this catastrophe on the continent.

It shocked governments into action, banning the international trade in rhino products by 1977 through CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). By the late 1990s, rhino numbers began to increase. “But overall the rhino range had shrunk,” states Vigne, pointing to the red dots.

With the current demand for horn, it’s the southern white rhino which has been hardest hit in South Africa’s vast Kruger National Park with Mozambique on its long eastern border. There have not been enough rangers to protect this huge area from the onslaught of poaching. About 400 patrollers at any one time cover an area of 19,500 square kilometres, which equates to one patroller for 49 square kilometres. “Ideally,” states Vigne, “a large area requires a ranger per 10 square kilometres and double that for small areas.”

Inadequate manpower to protect the mega-herbivore in South Africa is a challenge.

Ironically, the world’s greatest success story in conservation was the revival of the white rhino that was on the brink of extinction in the early 1900s in South Africa. Shot for sport by the great white hunters and for clearance to a couple of hundred, South Africa built her population of the white rhino up to 19,000 by 2012.

Then the poaching suddenly soared to over a 1,000 rhinos killed a year for its horn. In 2015, an estimated 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa. And poaching continues with hundreds killed each year.

This all coincides with the disposable income of the Chinese. Between 2012 and 2013, the price of rhino horn on the wholesale market in China and Vietnam peaked at $65,000 per kilogramme. Two years late it had declined by half because of a glut in the market making it affordable for the average Chinese, and prices have continued to fall, making it available to many.

China shares borders with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. Vietnam has a long coastline, making it easy for smuggled goods to enter. Goods are then easily sailed along the Mekong River which flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The price of rhino horn items for retail sale halved to about $53 per gram in Vietnam in 2015. It has made the horn even more available to the Chinese who hop over the border for a shopping spree around Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, despite rhino horn being illegal in Vietnam and China. In neighbouring Laos the Chinese as in Africa are building infrastructure. With this insurgence, shops in exclusive hotel boutiques selling rhino horn trinkets and ivory items have escalated and are sold to Chinese (or any buyer).

In addition, gilded casinos attract the Chinese holiday makers to gamble, after which the winners usually head to buy the coveted rhino horn trinket in the boutiques.

The criminal trade in rhino horn is big money, controlled by kingpins who are protected by people in high places. Although there are international organisations like CITES to protect trade in endangered species, they prove to be inadequate.

“It’s down to the political will,” states Vigne. An example is Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

“The policy is no trade and there is one ranger per square kilometre to protect the animals with income shared fairly amongst the local communities in the buffer zones who receive 50 percent of the park tourist revenue. They are thus motivated to help protect the rhinos and be the eyes and ears of the Park. This is similar in India”.

From 200 Greater One-horned rhinos in India and Nepal in 1900 there are over 3,500 today.

It’s something we can emulate – the recovery of a species.

On the front lines in the fight for rhinos

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade No Comments
Times Live | November 14, 2019

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What would drive a man to “smuggle” rhino horn back into Africa at great risk to himself?

This is just one of the situations Grant Fowlds has put himself in as part of his ongoing fight against poaching, to prove a link between southern Africa and the illicit, lucrative trade in rhino horn in Vietnam.

Co-authored by Graham Spence, this book is a story of a man dedicated to conserving Africa’s rhino population. (Image: Jonathan Ball)

Shavings of rhino horn are sold as a snake-oil “cure” for colds or impotence, but a rhino’s horn has no magical or medicinal properties.

It is owing to these misconceptions that rhinoceroses are being killed at an escalating rate that puts the survival of the species in jeopardy.

This corrupt, illegal war on wildlife has brought an iconic animal to the brink of extinction.

In 2016 the number of rhinos poached in SA stood at 1,054 (Department of Environmental Affairs).

In 2017, 529 rhinos had been slaughtered by July 24. In the past nine years, more than 6,100 rhinos have been poached in SA, leaving fewer than 19,000 white, and 2,000 black rhinos in the country.

Growing up on a farm in the Eastern Cape, Grant Fowlds developed a deep love of nature, turning his back on hunting to focus on saving wildlife of all kinds and the environment that sustains both them and us.

He is a passionate conservationist who puts himself on the front line of protecting rhinos in the wild – right now, against armed poachers; but in the longer term, too, through his work with schoolchildren, communities and policy makers.

Watch: Sweet baby rhino ‘protects’ its mother from vets. What’s the sad truth behind its concern?

By News No Comments
Scroll In | November 15, 2019

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In an adorable yet disheartening video, a baby rhino squeals and charges at the vets treating his injured and seemingly unconscious mother. While the baby rhino’s fierce attempts are winning hearts, the mother’s story appears to be a heart-breaking one.

Glimpsed in the video is the area of her head where her horn should be, but appears to have been gouged out (presumably by poachers). Rhinos have been relentlessly poached for their horns, to the point where all five surviving species of rhino are now classified as critically endangered.

Another catalyst to their extinction has been a rapid loss of habitat, while the murky rhino horn trade does not appear to be subsiding. In fact, it has been found that rhinos in the wild who have had their horns removed stand a statistically significant higher chance of surviving.

Screenshot from video published on Scroll In.

Here is a comprehensive list of the five species, and their current endangered population figures. The only three remaining northern white rhino were kept under 24-hour guard in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Of them, the last male, Sudan, died at the age of 45 in 2018, and only two females (his daughter and granddaughter) remain. In May of 2019, Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhinoceros, named Tam, died at a wildlife reserve, leaving just one surviving member of the subspecies, a female.

The need for artificial reproduction for these species may be the best way forward. Foundations like World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have also been working on rhino conservation by expanding protected areas, improving management, security and policies regarding these areas.

Moreover, if the exploitative horn trade industry continues to thrive, the demand for which is driven by the perceived medicinal value of the rhino horn and the status symbol of owning one, current numbers will never match the fight against poaching.

Below are two videos, one of the last two Northern White Rhinos on earth in August 2019, and one of baby rhinos in sanctuaries during playtime as they learn to charge at each other.

Scientists create fake rhino horn from horsehair in a bid to save the species

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade, Science and technology No Comments
Amy Woodyatt, CNN | November 8, 2019

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Scientists have developed a fake rhino horn using horsehair, in a bid to create “credible fakes” to flood the market and reduce demand for the material.

Researchers from the University of Oxford created the synthetic horn by bundling horse hairs, gluing them together with a matrix of regenerated silk to mimic the collagenous properties of authentic rhino horn.

Rhinos are often poached for their horn, which buyers believe can cure health problems from hangovers to cancer.

Persistent poaching and habitat loss has led to a decline in the world’s rhino population — according to conservation organization Save the Rhino, 892 of the animals were killed in Africa in 2018.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), there are an estimated 20,000 white rhinos, 5,000 black rhinos and 3,500 greater one-horn rhinos left alive. There are believed to be fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos, and fewer than 68 Javan rhinos — both considered to be critically endangered species.

The international trade in rhino horn has been banned since 1977, regulated by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but individual countries determine their own laws that allow or prohibit its sale domestically, according to Save the Rhino.

Original photo as published by Edition.cnn.com: Rhinos are often poached for their horn, which some buyers believe can cure health problems.

In research published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, the Oxford scientists said they were able to fabricate samples that looked and felt like real rhino horn — something they hope will allow for “credible fakes” to flood the market, confusing consumers and diminishing demand for the product.

Researchers said analytical studies showed the fake horsehair horn demonstrated similar composition and properties to natural horn, which grows from a tightly packed tuft of hair on the animal’s nose.

‘It appears from our investigation that it is rather easy as well as cheap to make a bio-inspired hornlike material that mimics the rhino’s extravagantly expensive tuft of nose hair,” co-lead author Professor Fritz Vollrath, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, said in a statement.

“We leave it to others to develop this technology further with the aim to confuse the trade, depress prices and thus support rhino conservation,” he added.

Vollrath told CNN that by demonstrating how easily fake rhino horn can be created, he hoped potential consumers would think twice about buying rhino horn for huge sums.

“What I am hoping is that the story gets out that rhino horn is not some magical substance — it is hair, glued together with sticky stuff that comes out of the nose. It’s nothing special, nothing magical,” Vollrath told CNN.

However, the research has met with skepticism from conservationists.

WWF told CNN that it did not believe the marketing of fake or synthetic horn would reduce levels of rhino poaching.

“One of the known characteristics of the Asian consumer markets since the poaching crisis erupted in 2007 has been the high quantity of fake horn in circulation,” a WWF spokesperson told CNN in a statement.

“In spite of this rhino poaching levels have risen relentlessly, because many buyers still prefer the real product and will take some trouble to acquire it from sources they deem trustworthy.”

“A number of developers are working on creating a synthetic product, which, it is claimed, would be ‘biologically identical’ to real horn. This raises the obvious question as to how enforcement personnel could tell the two products apart, especially if they are both marketed as powder or as an ingredient in other medicinal or manufactured products,” the spokesperson said.

Cathy Dean, CEO of Save the Rhino, told CNN that flooding the market with fake product would hamper law enforcement efforts to clamp down on the trade in rhino horn.

“If you catch somebody who is trafficking a real rhino horn, they could plead a line of defense that they thought they were carrying a horsehair horn — it would make the whole prosecution process very, very difficult,” Dean told CNN.

Dean told CNN that the invention wouldn’t deter those seeking the full, intact rhino horns often bought by wealthy individuals.

“The main driver of the poaching prices is very wealthy businessmen willing to splash out large sums of money to buy a whole horn which they would then display,” Dean said.

“They want the real thing, they want to demonstrate that they have the power, the wealth, the connections to be able to buy this illicit product,” she added.

Trading in rhino horn is not going to solve our extinction crisis

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Law & legislation No Comments
Ross Harvey, Opinion/The Daily Maverick | October 15, 2019

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Rhino poaching in South Africa may be abating somewhat, if national figures are to be believed, but rhinos in Botswana are being hammered (many of them sent there for refuge from South Africa).

Drought-induced accessibility, combined with a disappearance of counterpoaching activity ahead of next week’s national elections, are largely to blame for Botswana’s losses.

Either way, this continual decimation in southern Africa has raised the argument, yet again, of whether it isn’t time to reintroduce an international trade in rhino horn.

Proponents contend that it would subdue demand, crowd out illegal players and reduce poaching incentives through driving down price. This is fanciful.

Shortly before the most recent (August 2019) Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Tiara Walters wrote a useful piece in Daily Maverick examining the arguments. Now that the Post-CoP dust has settled, it’s clear the world made the right decision to avoid any reopening of the international trade in rhino horn. What remains is for South Africa, eSwatini, Namibia and any other country kidding itself that consumptive use is going to solve our extinction crisis, to reject its naivety and get onto the same conservation page.

Closer to home, it seems that the number of rhinos left in the Kruger National Park is far fewer than what the 2017 census suggests. Black rhino numbers were then estimated at between 427 and 586 animals, while white rhinos were estimated at between 4,759 and 5,532 animals.

A policy dilemma is whether to release the latest figures. In response to Daily Maverick’s investigation, Minister for the Environment, Barbara Creecy, said, “We haven’t released the new population figures. Do you think that if poachers knew how much rhino are left in Kruger that this would be a good thing?” This suggests remarkable naivety. It’s hardly as if sophisticated poaching syndicates are waiting for South Africa’s census as intel for optimising their poaching efforts.

The numbers probably show an overestimate. If poaching has declined, it may be more attributable to reduced density than to counterpoaching success per se. Disagreement over numbers is not new; the question is what to do about poaching. And the argument, as retold by Walters, is that we should resort to trading in rhino horn “because nothing else has worked”.

Trade legalisation would likely result in an outward shift of the demand curve, as it would undermine the stigma effect currently associated with purchasing horn. Demand reduction is therefore optimal policy strategy, the efficacy of which depends on clear messaging that supply will no longer be available. Critics, like wildlife vet Pete Rogers, ridicule this. In his eyes, as long as a horned rhino represents $200,000, demand reduction efforts are futile.

But the evidence suggests he’s wrong, as average prices for raw rhino horn in Asian markets show a long-term trend decline. One rhino horn of about 4kg is now worth about $60,000 on the black market – a long shot from $200,000.

Nonetheless, Namibia and eSwatini left CoP18 angry that their trade proposals were shot down. They wanted permission to sell existing rhino horn stock to licensed retailers through making “their” rhinos exempt from the CITES Appendix IIannotation that currently prohibits trade in derivative parts.

Appendix II provides less protection than Appendix I, but rhino (only South Africa and Eswatini) and elephant populations on Appendix II are subject to restrictions. Private breeders in South Africa were also angry but now contend that captive breeding operations are not subject to the same restrictions and that they can simply breed Appendix I animals as if they were Appendix II – essentially free to trade in their horns (see Article VII, paragraph 5). It was assumed by eSwatini that it could sell horn for about $30,000/kg and tried to convince the world that this money would be ploughed back into conservation. But the average black market price for raw ivory had already dropped to roughly $15,000/kg by mid 2018.

Demand reduction efforts do work, provided they’re intelligently constructed and not undermined by mixed messaging. Cultures are dynamic, as are consumer tastes and preferences. A recent report by the Wildlife Justice Commission – showing declining prices – allows inference that consumer tastes may be shifting away from raw rhino horn. Preferences in recent years also appear to have shifted from medicinal to aspirational. In other words, prestige trumps healing. And prestige purchases are more sensitive to changing global sentiments.

This idea that the international ban has not worked is also misleading. After 1993, when the United States threatened Taiwan with an import ban on its electronic products unless it stopped importing rhino horn, rhino numbers started to recover. It was only after 2006 that the poaching crisis erupted in South Africa due to demand shifts in newly industrialising Asian economies (especially Vietnam).

In response, the Department of Environmental Affairs imposed a moratorium on domestic trade in 2009. This was repealed in 2017, as the Constitutional Court ruled that it hadn’t followed the correct procedures. The department avoided taking the simple reparatory steps required to reimpose a moratorium.

Perhaps partly because of the proliferation of pseudo-hunting – Asian criminal syndicates exploited a CITES loophole by shooting rhinos and then importing the horn back home – the domestic ban did little to stem the tide. Of course, partial bans are ineffective, and the government’s reluctance to reimpose a moratorium may have had something to do with the allegations that the Minister of State Security was involved in rhino horn smuggling. Or that former MK operatives are involved in abalone, narcotics and rhino horn trafficking.

Trade enthusiasts like Ted Reilly (of eSwatini) naively assume that official stockpile sales will fetch black market prices for governments. John Hume – who owns 1,700 rhinos – has held auctions in South Africa to try to sell horn domestically. The sales data wasn’t released, but from the poor response and his continued cries of poverty, we can assume he received nowhere near black market prices. Similarly, when southern African nations sold off some of their ivory stockpiles in 2008, they received only approximately $180/kg, with Japan and China making the bulk of the profit, releasing ivory into their markets at around $800/kg.

But the biggest problem with the idea of a controlled legal trade is that it would somehow crowd out criminal syndicates. It can’t. Poachers can always supply to market more cheaply than breeders or legal sellers. And once legal channels exist, laundering from illegal sources is easy. Law enforcement officials across transit routes have neither the resources nor the capacity to distinguish legal from illegal supply.

Why, for instance, are chimpanzees being exported from South Africa to “zoos” elsewhere in the world? Because breeders can illegally acquire wild chimpanzees, pass them off as captive-bred locally (apparently bypassing CITES regulations) and sell them – for a vast sum of money – for “non-commercial” purposes.

The pro-trade position further assumes that it would be able to fetch a Goldilocks price for rhino horn – just right to disincentivise poaching and to incentivise responsible breeding. But this is hardly the De Beers Central Selling Organisation (CSO). Rhino horns are much easier to source illegally than diamonds. That’s the bottom line – governments are never going to be as effective as the CSO. And the upshot of a legal trade is that if it results in an outward demand curve shift (because there is no longer a stigma effect reducing consumption) the price may balloon, incentivising more poaching.

A naïve assumption also persists that stockpiled rhino horn sales could satiate demand, provided it ran alongside continued demand reduction efforts. But even economist ‘t Sas-Rolfes suggests that harvested horn from current stockpiles (estimated at a total of 49 tonnes) could only supply the market for three to five years. If supply was sustainable – a massive if – ‘t Sas-Rolfes argues that the price would not continue to increase. He admits, though, that “unless we make serious inroads into the demand by way of consumer-behaviour change, prices are never likely to come down sufficiently to eliminate the black market”. This implies that we can have our cake and eat it too.

Why should consumers refrain from purchasing a product that breeders are explicitly trying to sell at just the right price to incentivise breeding that somehow undercuts poachers but still makes them profits? This is like telling a teenager not to smoke but providing the cigarette. Smoking is a good example in this case for another reason: illicit cigarettes undercut legal prices all over the world. But ‘t Sas-Rolfes’ argues that wildlife like crocodiles can sustainably be farmed to supply a market and crowd out illegal supply. But rhino horns are not crocodile skins – the horn market evolves and proliferates in differentiated products by the day. Many consumers demand to see evidence that rhino horn is wild-caught.

South Africa does indeed need to take bold steps to save its rhinos. We should avoid sending mixed messages to consumers or fiddling with the idea of a CSO to feed the very market whose demand we’re trying to reduce. We need to allocate global resources to frontline conservation – involving local communities to protect rhinos; stop breeding and stockpiling horn that is easily leaked into illicit markets (who benefits?!); reduce global demand for rhino horn and complement these efforts with unequivocal bans. We have to stop making simplistic arguments that “bans fail, therefore we should experiment with trade”. Rather, we should try to actually enforce a total ban and encourage conservationists and range states to land on the same page.

Ross Harvey studied a B.Com in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where he also completed an M.Phil in Public Policy. At the end of 2018, he submitted his PhD in Economics, also at UCT. He started his wildlife research career at the South African Institute of International Affairs, where he worked as a senior researcher from 2013 to 2019. His initial work oversaw a project that examined every element of the ivory trade, from park to port to end consumer. He has published in one of the world’s top journals, Ecological Economics, and a wide array of other outlets. Ross is currently a freelance independent economist who works with The Conservation Action Trust.

Mozambique: Rhino horns seized in Maputo last month are fake – ANAC

By Illegal trade, News No Comments
The Club of Mozambique | October 11, 2019

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The National Conservation Area Administration denies the PRM and says the two supposed rhino horns found last month in possession of a Mozambican citizen are fake.

The story began to unfold from the second PRM station in Maputo City, and its protagonist was a young man detained by police on suspicion of trafficking in rhino horns. Police, through the general command spokesman told the press that they believed the horns were authentic.

The National Conservation Areas Administration (ANAC) today announced the verdict regarding the authenticity of the two rhino horns.

Original photo as published by Club of Mozambique: Photo: O País

“The [task of carrying out the] expert assessment and report was handed to the appropriate authorities. The rhino horns are fake. They are made of an acrylic material, goat skin at its base and, inside them, a beer bottle to lighten the weight,” said ANAC representative Carlos Lopes.

The young man was arrested, police said, as he was preparing to deliver the package to a presumed client in one of the capital’s hotel resorts.

Interview: Environment minister Barbara Creecy surprised at her mining role (South Africa)

By Conservation, News No Comments

Ed Stoddard, The Daily Maverick | October 3, 2019

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Barbara Creecy, who became environment minister in May, expected that in the mining space she might spend a lot of her time dealing with conservationists opposed to the issuing of mining permits. She was in for a surprise.

“What comes to me are the appeals,” she told Business Maverick on the sidelines of the 10th annual Oppenheimer Research Conference in Midrand, which is focused on conservation.

Some quick background is in order here – the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) issues mining permits after various regulations have been followed by an applicant, including environmental impact assessments, known as EIAs. If someone is not happy with that decision, they can appeal to Creecy’s department.

“What’s interesting is that I deal a lot with appeals from mining houses that have been refused rights by DMRE. Often they have been refused because DMRE has concerns regarding the EIA. It’s quite interesting being the appeal authority, because when I came in my assumption was that all appeals were from people who did not want mining licences issued.”

There are also appeals of course from groups opposed to mining on various grounds. These include communities, heritage authorities and conservationists. But the mix of appeals was much wider than she anticipated.

“If everyone’s unhappy, the system’s working,” she said with a laugh. It certainly does suggest that the oversight mechanisms appear to be working, through Creecy did not disclose any details about specific cases.

Asked if she believed, as environment minister, that any more coal mining permits should be issued given the concerns about the links between fossil fuel usage and climate change, Creecy was frank. She admitted that in the case of a developing economy such as South Africa’s, the transition to a low-carbon economy is not going to take place as fast as many environmentalists would like.

“It’s very important that we understand that mining contributes 7.5% to our GDP and 30% to our foreign exchange earnings and we have a balance of payments deficit. When we look at that trajectory to a low carbon economy we have to be absolutely clear that that process has to happen in a responsible manner and it can’t be an overnight process,” she said.

A former MEC of finance for Gauteng, Creecy understands the long-term consequences of a worsening balance of payments deficit. The worst-case-scenario can include a complete blowout of the rand and the IMF bailout that many commentators have warned may be looming. That would also push conservation issues far down the public agenda.

On the wildlife front, Creecy said it was vital for the African nations that are the custodians of the world’s last great megafauna populations, to derive benefit from that wildlife. At the recent triennial CITES conference on the global trade in endangered species, a proposal led by Botswana and Zimbabwe to loosen the ban on the ivory trade was shot down. This led Zimbabwe to say it was considering withdrawing from CITES altogether.

Original photo by Hangela

“It’s not in any of our interests to have a breakdown of the multilateral system and when countries get to the point that they are even informally suggesting that they would want to withdraw from a multilateral system, that can only be bad news for global governance and in this particular instance bad news for conservation,” Creecy said.

This year she will be chairing the grouping of African environment ministers and said one of the things she wants “to get going is a dialogue. How do we make sure that the countries which are the major custodians of elephants and rhinos feel that they are benefiting from that custodianship? This does not have to be consumptive, but I think that unless we get that nexus right you’re not going to be able to protect… We are not getting that balance right.”

She would not be drawn on what South Africa’s stance on ivory or rhino horn trade might be at the next big CITES meeting, but said: “What I would want to comment on is the question of how we ensure that communities living with wildlife have an interest in conservation and sustainable relationships with that wildlife as opposed to conflictual relationships. The great concern I would have over the recent CITES is that I think that that question is not being explored fully.”