Does the solution to poaching lie in flooding the market with rhino horn?: iLIVE - Times LIVE
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Does the solution to poaching lie in flooding the market with rhino horn?: iLIVE

Janine Scorer | 2013-01-25 09:05:59.0
Ema Elsa, a nine-year-old Black Rhino, is nuzzled by her newborn calf in their enclosure at Chester Zoo in Chester, northern England October 5, 2012. The female calf which is less than 48 hours old will join an international breeding programme for the critically endangered species.

During the time that the African elephant was listed on Appendix II (which allows limited trade), their population declined by half.

Of this total, almost 80% of all legally traded ivory came from poached animals and the ivory trade, this illegal market "in effect collapsed" following the listing on Appendix I (total ban).

Since the imposition of the ban, the average annual number of elephants killed by poaching has declined from 3 500 elephants per year in Kenya in the early 1980s, to about 50 in 1993.

(Figures above come from TED Case Studies, Elephant Ivory Trade Ban.)

I am not sure if people who advocate the flooding of the market with rhino horn, have taken into account the human population of Asia when figuring out how much rhino horn would be required.

Susie Watts and Mark Jones from Humane Society International did a study and came up with some figures.

“It is projected that the (mainland only) Chinese middle class will hit 600-million in 2015.

If only one-third of those people take just one single dose (15 g) of rhino horn a year, and assuming a mean white-rhino horn weight of 4 kg, we will need 750 000 rhino horns a year to satisfy the market. That’s 16 times the estimated global rhino population.”

And of course there are millions more living in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, as well as in the USA, Europe, Australia and all over Africa.

Farming of rhino is also not viable, we could never harvest enough rhino horn to satisfy the market. The rhino horn will take a minimum of three years to re-grow, and de-horning can only be done with “farmed rhino”, there would be a huge negative impact on de-horning wild rhino, as they need their horn for various reasons in the wild, digging for roots and soil nutrients required in their diets being one, and protection of themselves and their calves from other rhino or predators is another.

De-horning also involves having to anesthetise the animal, as many of us already know that this is a high risk situation for all large mammal species, mortality rates could increase from this alone. It has also been thought that removal of rhino horns from the rhino could affect the breeding of the rhino, thus reducing the number of calves born to de horned rhino, on the matter of the aesthetic/M99, it is also often very difficult to tell if a cow is pregnant and giving her a dose of M99 could cause her to abort the calf or cause damage to the foetus. One could go on and on about the negatives of de-horning.

The only way to stop this is to put a total ban on the sale of rhino horn and the hunting of any rhino.

If we look at what is happening to elephant in the past few years since CITES allowed limited release and sale of ivory into the market again, it is horrific and very troubling, it is estimated that between 35 000 and 38 000 elephant per year alone were poached in countries north of South Africa. (The above figures are from Save the Elephants foundation.)

Looking at this I fail to see how “Flooding the market with rhino horn” is even possible. What I do see is that, if we blunder into an experiment of this sort, we will have opened a Pandora's Box which will be difficult - perhaps even impossible - to close again.

My feeling is that the total ban on all rhino horn trade should be maintained and also implemented for ivory. Possession of such items should be criminalised and severe penalties for anyone involved in the poaching and trade of such should be implemented.

Interestingly enough poaching in Botswana is the lowest in Africa, the reason for this is that they have the death penalty for such wildlife crimes. During a recent visit to Chobe, I was informed that they have very strict gun regulations and they will shoot armed poachers on sight. And Beyond have recently moved some of their rhino to Botswana for this very reason, they will be much safer there.


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