HITTING BACK: Rhino may have a fighting chance if a proposal to downlist their status is approved. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
A radical proposal to downlist the status of the white rhino in terms of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was the “only effective measure” to stop the continued plundering of this Big Five species.
This assertion comes from the Pretoria-based SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association ahead of public hearings called by the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs into the thorny issue of rhino poaching, the possible institution of a moratorium on legal hunting and other measures to prevent poaching.
In support of its call, the association has been running a Rhino Alive! campaign since last April.
“Downlisting the white rhino to Appendix 111 from its present Appendix 11 rating will allow conservation authorities to manage trade in rhino horn effectively and responsibly,” the association’s Dr Herman Els said.
His association would like to see a single body set up with a clear mandate to manage anti-poaching measures and administer the national and international trade in rhino horn using compulsory DNA profiling. The University of Pretoria’s veterinary genetics laboratory at its Onderstepoort Veterinary Science Faculty is the only facility in the country where a rhino DNA index system is up and running.
The association’s call for downlisting, allowing legal trade in rhino horn, follows similar calls from top conservationists.
Veteran conservationist Dr Ian Player, who was an integral part of the then Natal Parks Board (NPB) initiative that brought the white rhino back from the brink of extinction in KwaZulu-Natal, sees legal trade of this wildlife product as the only viable solution.
David Cook, a colleague of his at NPB, has also come out in support of legalising rhino horn trade. Looking at the longer term, Els is worried other species could also come under stress from poaching. “This is particularly true of elephant, thousands of which have been slaughtered over the past decade in Africa just for ivory.”