Cape Times – 9 July 2013
I read the articles by Melanie Gosling and Tony Weaver on the legalisation of rhinoceros horn trade in the Cape Times on Friday 5 July. Like many, I am concerned about the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitats, in general, and rhinoceroses, in particular. I would like to add the following points to the debate:
There is an inexhaustible supply of poor people outside our borders in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in particular, willing to run the risks inherent in poaching rhinoceroses because the rewards are high, the chances of being caught, convicted and/or incarcerated are low and their own countries do little or nothing to help stop them.
The high levels of corruption and incompetence amongst our police, park rangers and prosecution services amongst others, directly and indirectly, assist the poachers.
For example, I have been reliably told that rangers in Kruger National Park have undergone the equivalent of lie detector tests and, while many have failed, the majority remain employed.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, when coordinated raids against poaching gangs have been planned, little is achieved as poachers have been forewarned and increasing reliance is having to be placed on tracker dogs.
In addition, South Africa lacks sufficient well-trained, well-equipped, well-led, well-coordinated and well-motivated forces to combat poaching as is evidenced by the ever increasing numbers being killed.
In summary, the current methods of combatting rhinoceros poaching is not working and, if there is any thought that this might be different in the future, consider the state of service delivery in the country and ask whether the government responsible will somehow do better in this sphere.
By continuing down this path, rhinoceroses are being consigned to extinction as surely as has been the case almost everywhere else in Africa and Asia.
Something that is almost as valuable and sought after as rhinoceros horns is diamonds. De Beers, through its Central Selling Organization, has effectively controlled the mining, distribution and sale of these precious stones for decades and every one – miners, cutters, polishers, designers, jewellery manufacturers and, yes, even the buyers, benefit.
If rhinoceros horn trading was legalised, a similar type of central selling organization system could be established for rhinoceros horns – the precedent already exists – and, if for some reason it does not work, then it could be stopped while the current methods of combating this disgusting scourge could continue simultaneously.
And with the R11 billion that the South Africa will generate from the sale of its rhinoceros horn stockpile, some or all of the money could be used, for example, to:
- Lobby the United Nations and its members to do more to help combat rhinoceros poaching; and
- Name and shame those nations harbouring traders in rhinoceros products; and
- Train and equip sufficient elite forces to combat poaching – in all cases to limit the illegal supply.
- Educate the Asian nations and, particularly Vietnam, about the folly of buying rhinoceros products – in order to limit the demand.
Is this possible? In Julian Rademeyer’s book, Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade, he states that, “In May 1993, China announced a blanket prohibition on the sale, purchase, importation, exportation and possession of rhinoceros horn. Traders were given six months to dispose of their remaining stocks, including medicines. Rhino horn was also deleted from the country’s voluminous, state sanctioned pharmacopoeia.” He goes on to quote TRAFFIC as saying that China has made a “substantial effort to implement the ban … the results of these could indicate that China has been highly successful in implementing the domestic ban on the trade in rhinoceros horn … ”
Vietnam, the main driver behind the poaching, sale and distribution of rhinoceros horns, is a country of approximately 90 million people controlled by an effective one-party, communist dictatorship in which peoples’ freedoms are severely constrained. It would appear possible for them to follow and implement the Chinese example if they could be persuaded to do so.
What is clear, however, is that the CITES ban on ivory and rhino horn trading and public relations exercises such as burning ivory stockpiles, has had no positive effect in combatting poaching.
Theodore Roosevelt, the American President in the early 1900s, said that in any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. While people saying the legalisation of rhino horn trading “may”, “possibly”, “could”, do this or that (without any hard evidence to support their theories), rhinoceroses are being slaughtered. Now. Today.
I am sure when Ian Player and his colleagues sold rhinoceroses to private game ranches in the 1970s when there were only a few hundred left, the same kind of could have/should have people were around making the same kind of noises.
The choice is crystal clear – carry on doing more of the same – and the rhinoceros is doomed. The private sector saved rhinoceroses from extinction in this country once before when game ranchers were allowed to buy, conserve and sustainably hunt them. Let them save the rhino a second time. Legalise the rhino horn trade as this will give them the incentive and funds to provide the needed security and space.