The Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is central to global efforts to tackle overexploitation. WWF will be at its 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) working to secure the best result for the world’s threatened species, including our ‘Big Five at CITES’ – elephants, rhinos, sharks, pangolins and tigers.
Rhino poaching in Africa has been soaring since 2007. Last year, over 1,370 were illegally killed for their horns across the continent, although the vast majority were poached in South Africa, which is home to over 80% of the world’s remaining rhinos.
The killing is increasingly driven by international criminal networks and fuelled by an explosion in demand in Viet Nam, a country without a previous history of large-scale rhino horn consumption.
While there has been a ban on international commercial trade in rhino horn since 1975, weak laws and inadequate enforcement efforts in key countries faciliate the illegal trade. Viet Nam as the primary consumer country is the principle culprit in this regard, while China also needs to take steps to reduce demand.
Mozambique has made some progress but needs to strengthen efforts to stop traffickers from smuggling rhino horn across its territory. South Africa is devoting considerable resources to stopping the poaching within its borders, but additional steps are still required.
CITES needs to keep up the pressure on all these countries, especially Viet Nam, which should agree to the implementation of concrete, time-bound measures or face sanctions under the Convention.
Lifting of the current ban on international trade in rhino horn. Some believe that allowing legal international trade will undermine the illicit market and provide much-needed funds for rhino conservation. This view has apparently motivated Swaziland to seek leave from CITES to conduct limited, legal trade.
WWF believes that this would be a step backwards, because of the governance and enforcement issues that would arise in prospective consumer markets. Now is not the time to gamble with rhinos.