World’s nations reject attempt to legalize rhino horn trade

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International wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation, has welcomed a decision by delegates at CITES to reject Swaziland’s proposal to sell off its rhino horn. The proposal, which would have enabled Swaziland to sell just over 300kg of stockpiled rhino horn, followed by around 20kg each year derived from its small population of white rhinos, was defeated by 100 votes to 26, with 17 countries abstaining.

Born Free’s Associate Director Mark Jones, who also co-chairs the Species Survival Network’s Rhino Working Group, said: “Rhino poaching continues to be a big problem as criminal gangs slaughter these ancient and noble animals to supply horns into valuable illegal markets in Asia, for use in traditional medicines, as a high-end gift, or as a recreational substance for the nouveau riche.”

Born Free’s President and CEO, Will Travers OBE, added: “Defeat of this potentially disastrous proposal does not, in itself, mean that poaching levels will come down. It is vital that international community comes forward with resources and expertise to assist Rhino range states to better protect their rhino through a suite of measures including: higher levels of more effective protection in the field.”

Fewer than 30,000 rhinos belonging to five species exist across parts of Africa and Asia. More than 6,000 have been killed by poachers across Africa over the past decade, mostly in South Africa, and India lost almost 100 of its one-horned rhinos between 2013-2015.

In addition to rejecting the Swaziland proposal, the CITES meeting agreed a range of measures that should help improve rhino protection and reduce demand for horn.

CITES aims to ensure that international trade in a species of animal or plant does not threaten their survival. It is an international treaty between governments and is legally binding. Every three years, the member countries (or Parties) of CITES meet to review the impact of international trade on various species at the CoP, making changes to their protection and to how the Convention operates.

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