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article imageOp-Ed: Will rhino horn ban be lifted, following increased slaughter?

By Eileen Kersey     Mar 9, 2013 in Environment
Bangkok - Rhino poachers have been busy in 2013. It is only early March and already there are reports of 146 animals illegally killed this year. In 2012, 668 Rhinos were illegally killed.
Rhinoceros are an endangered species, with South Africa having the highest population of Rhino. As the South African government considers what it can do to protect Rhinos one option up for consideration is legalizing the trade.
When elephant poachers kill those animals it is for their tusks and the remains of the magnificent creatures are often left to rot and fester in the heat of the sun. Rhinos are valuable for their horns.
The trade in Rhino horn is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). It has been illegal since 1977.
We need to look to the east as a reason for the trade in Rhino horn. Various Chinese and eastern medicines, plus herbal remedies, include rhino horn as an ingredient. The horn is used in products which claim to cure everything from a hang-over to cancer. However, we should also look closer to home as people in the west also buy these products. Is the view that, if there were no customers and no trade there would be an end to the slaughter, too simplistic?
According to a report by the BBC, "Delegates at the Cites conference in Bangkok heard that to date 146 animals have been killed for their horns in 2013. The South Africans said that a taboo on discussing the prospect of legalizing the trade in the animals must be lifted."
The South African delegate said that while his country had not reached a decision about calling for a lifting of the ban on selling rhino horns, the nation believed it was time for the dialogue to begin. "We must talk about it, because all other things are spoken about, but this is taboo - no-one wants to touch it," he told the meeting. "We are saying we have tried everything. Let us start talking about this one. There is no decision made, but we can't talk about awareness or research or range expansion without talking about this one."
As poachers become organized, criminal gangs operate the trade and the authorities are having a tough time minimizing it, let alone stamping it out. Criminal syndicates link South Africa to Asia and final destinations. Surely legalizing the trade would be a step too far though?
The Secretary-General of the CITES Secretariat, John E. Scanlon said “The first global meeting of wildlife enforcement networks is an important step in our collective response to combating serious wildlife and forest crime. Illegal wildlife and forest product trade is escalating, transnational and increasingly well-organized. Coordinated responses that connect and align efforts across borders and organizations provide the best opportunities to combat this serious crime, and protect the species and people at risk because of it.”
Responding to a cruel trade by legalizing it is ridiculous. The rhino trade is illegal for a reason, to protect the animals and future stocks. Legalizing such a trade may allow some controls but surely it is a backward step?
Are CITES representatives open to debate because of pressure from the east, notably China and Vietnam. Obviously if the trade is legalized some people will make huge sums of money. A legalized trade also allows governments to gain revenue.
Surely by now though people should look at animals differently? We know that any species can become endangered. We should also respect animals and consider their welfare. China has a track record of animal cruelty. Legalizing the trade would help line the pockets of some but it would do nothing to prevent cruel and barbaric treatment of Rhinos. The rhino population would be reduced leaving them vulnerable.
Sadly, after years of "civilization" all too often all we see is an increase in cruelty and animal abuse. Left unchecked an increase in the slaughter of Rhinos will have a devastating impact. Is the only way forward legalization or would such a step be more about money?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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