Proposals seeking to allow trade of rhino horns by Namibia, Eswati and South Africa dominated international meeting on wildlife conservation currently taking place in Geneva Switzerland as South Africa strikes a nod to increasing black rhino trophy hunting.
In its proposal, South Africa convinced several states and got a nod from European Union, Canada, Eswati and Botswana at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). The state would, therefore, double the number of endangered black rhinos that can be hunted for trophies every year from current 5.
South Africa, in its supporting documentation, argued that increased trophy hunting would create incentives for additional communal and private landowners to conserve the species. Countries including Kenya, however, stood to oppose the move.
In the proposal, South Africa whose black rhino population stands at 1893 individuals loses 45 rhinos annually to poaching with close to 4 rhinos often killed through trophy hunting.
“Currently an average of 2.4percent of South Africa’s black rhinoceros’ population is poached annually (45 individuals), and on average only 0.2percent of the current national population is removed through trophy hunting,” noted a document submitted by South Africa.
South Africa’s proposal to have 0.5 percent of its rhinos, translating to 9 rhinos utilized through trophy hunting every year however received a nod.
The approval, gave a go-ahead for South Africa to utilize 0.5 percent of the population of the black rhinos, particularly males, as they had stated.
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Black rhinos in Africa numbers 5,250 where South Africa hosts 36 percent of the total population. Kenya, is a host to 750 rhinos, according to the latest data from World Wildlife Fund.
In Kenya, the population of black rhinos doubled for the first time after 35 years of concerted conservation efforts. The numbers hit 750, a two-fold increase from 350 in 1983 when the population was at its lowest in the country as a result of intense poaching.
“The black rhino has suffered a catastrophic 98 percent decline across Kenya, whose population plummeted from 20,000 in the 1970s to about 350 in 1983. The curve has now turned and the population stands at 750 in 2018,” WWF said in a report on March 3 last year.
According to the International Union for Conservation and Nature, black rhinos are classified as critically endangered, meaning they still face a high risk of extinction in the wild.
The move comes as African countries continue to experience high cases of poaching and low rates of reproduction by the black rhinos. In 2015, poaching incidences of rhinos hit 62 in South Africa representing 3.3 percent of the population in the wild.
On the proposals to grace the meeting, Namibia wants Cites to allow trade for live animals and hunting trophies in the state while Eswatini wants to trade Southern White rhino horns internationally for commercial purposes.
In their proposals, Namibia and Eswatini want Cite to amend the list of species from Appendix I to Appendix II to allow for trade. Eswatini has proposed the removal of the existing listing of its southern white rhinos in Appendix I to Appendix II arguing that the current populations would sustain regulated international trade in rhinos and their products.
Eswatini (former Swaziland) wants to allow the commercial trade of southern white rhinos to sell existing stock of rhino horns and 20kg a year thereafter. Namibia also proposes to ease the sale of live animals to appropriate destinations and hunting trophies.
The move has however been opposed by countries including Kenya, and Switzerland among other countries.
Eswatini, however, noted that she does not believe in devaluing natural resources through destroying by burning stockpiles.
“Eswatini does not believe in burning or otherwise destroying valuable resources including rhino horn when conservation agencies across the continent are under-funded and cash-strapped,” they stated.
Namibia has proposed to change the CITES status of their white rhino population from Appendix I to Appendix II, which would allow international trade in live animals and trophy hunting trophies.
Listing species on Appendix I means they are given the highest possible protection because they are threatened with extinction. In the listing, it means the species cannot be commercially traded while those species listed in Appendix II are not necessarily threatened with extinction and can be traded only under special conditions.
Namibia in its argument said trophy hunting will help in conserving the species noting that it had made ‘strenuous’ efforts to discourage and bring down cases of illegal killing of rhinos.
“This proposal, therefore, is simply a down-listing proposal, with no consequential actions being implemented other than to facilitate the trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations, and legally hunted trophies which in turn will enhance the conservation of the species and its habitat,” notes proposal by Namibia.