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Mon Sep 26 22:48:59 CAT 2016

Rhino trade rests on summit

AFP | 23 September, 2016 08:03
THROWING ON THE TOWEL: A vet from Rhino 911 about to cover the eyes of a tranquillised rhino before it is microchipped at Pilanesberg National Park
Image by: IANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP

Global conservationists and policy-makers meet in Johannesburg from tomorrow to chart a way forward in the fight against escalating wildlife trafficking that could drive some species to extinction.

The plight of Africa's rhino and elephants, targeted for their horns and tusks, is expected to dominate 12 days of talks at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Illegal wildlife trade is valued at about $20-billion (about R280-billion) a year, according to CITES, and is ranked the fourth-largest illicit business in the world after arms, counterfeit goods and human trafficking.

The gathering is expected to assess whether to toughen or loosen trade restrictions on some 500 species of animals and plants.

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AIR SUPPORT: A darted Pilanesberg National Park rhino about to go down as a helicopter from Rhino 911 lands to check on it

"Much of the international attention will focus on the ivory of the African elephant and rhinoceros horn , and on combating their illegal trade," said CITES secretary-general John Scanlon ahead of the event.

CITES banned the trade in rhino horn 40 years ago.

Swaziland has put forward a divisive proposal asking for the total ban on international trade in rhino horn to be eased so that it can sell its stockpile of legally and non-lethally harvested horns.

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TAG TEAM: A vet attends to a tranquillised rhino about to be microchipped

The plan is backed by some private rhino owners who say the black market can be ended by supplying legal horn sawn off anaesthetised live animals and the funds used to fund conservation.

But Swaziland's proposal stands little chance of success in the face of a fierce campaign by conservation groups who fear legalised trade would only boost the appetite for horn.

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HACK ATTACK: A vet from Saving the Survivors and Rhino 911 crew treat a rhino wounded by poachers

The Humane Society International has urged Swaziland to withdraw its proposal, citing the strictly controlled legal ivory trade that has opened up opportunities for the laundering of tusks.

"As a consequence elephants have undergone a catastrophic decline," it said in the letter to Swazi King Mswati III.

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