White Rhino grazing at Monate Lodge

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

‘Rhino horn must not be legalised’

Legalisation of the rhino-horn trade will strengthen the misconception that rhino horn has “special powers”, while farming rhinos for their prized horns will keep them in depressing, cramped conditions and worsen illegal trade.
These are some of the views garnered from an informal survey initiated by the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), in a global poll on whether trade should resume and if rhinos should be farmed for their horns to stop rampant poaching.
In the survey, an overwhelming 78 percent of respondents believe trade in rhino horn should not be legalised, while just 12 percent throw their weight behind the controversial proposal. On the question of whether rhinos should be farmed, 73 percent disagree and only 15 percent approve.
The survey of the IRF – which works to protect the world’s five rhino species – comes at a time when the government is conducting separate studies into the viability of dehorning and the legal trade in rhino horn.
While South Africa is home to most of the world’s rhinos, this year alone close to 300 rhinos have been poached – more than half in the Kruger National Park – a figure likely to outstrip last year’s deadly toll of 333.
“Butchering these animals should carry the highest punishment. Instead of farming rhinos like common cows, these so-called people should invest in bringing rhinos back from the edge,” writes one European citizen for part of the survey. “Any companies linked to such killings for profit should be exposed and massive fines issued to them.”
The survey elicits mixed views. Some commentators remark the trade should only be legalised in a way that benefits conservation.
“I think if farming is legalised a portion of the proceeds must go back to poaching protection and the conservation of wild rhinos,” says a US woman in her 20s.
Another respondent, from Africa, believes farming can be considered only once the species is no longer endangered.
“Inevitably, illegal trade will hide within legal farming fronts. No doubt ‘wild’ horn will be regarded as more potent than ‘farmed’ horn, and will still be more valuable.”
An American citizen agrees: “If the Asian psyche is consuming the horn of a wild rhino, similar to their belief that a wild tiger has ‘greater powers’, than a farmed tiger, farmed rhino will absolutely not solve the problem of poaching!
“Good enforcement coupled with elimination of corruption, if at all possible, might allow sustainable harvesting of a few wild rhinos. Maybe Asia, with its new-found wealth, could actually embark on a conservation model that allows it to sustainably harvest a few animals and help pay for conservation.”
Another American concurs: “I believe that making any form of rhino horn legal for sale would endanger the lives of wild rhinos because it would strengthen the misconception rhino horn has any special powers.”
A respondent, from Africa, comments legalising then rhino trade will only create an additional avenue for those already trading illegally. “Organised criminals are often diversified, (also) operating legal business interests. For them it will only add another structure they can exploit.”
A European agrees: “I believe that the legalisation of trade in rhino horn would cause an upsurge in poaching to meet demand and give poachers a legal avenue to dispose of their horn. Do we really want to see rhinos farmed for horn, kept in cramped, depressing conditions, with no quality of life?”
An African respondent states rhino horn has no medicinal value and it is unethical to promote trade “at great risk to rhino populations. Too little is known about market and drivers. Poaching is linked to international crime syndicates and other illegal wildlife trade and products”.
“The SA industry is involved in poaching and driving the market as well. Conservation efforts should go towards conserving the rhino in situ, with accompanying habitat.
“The canned-lion industry is horrific, tiger farming is appalling. Do we want to add rhino farming to this? Absolutely not.”
Commenting on the survey, Pelham Jones of the Private Rhino Owners’ Association, told Independent Newspapers: “All the people at the rockface are saying legal trade and dehorning are definite possibilities. These are scientists and the most credible conservationists in the country. It’s very easy when you don’t have rhinos to turn around and say no to trade and dehorning.”


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