Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
South Africa has announced that it will officially push for rhino horn trade at the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES (2016), using horn from rhinos that have died of natural causes. Here’s my take!
Even taken at its most optimistic… 3% natural mortality (whatever that is), from circa 20,000 rhino, equaling 600 horns with an average weight on 5kg per horn (3,000kg in total) and using the dosage weight proposed by Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes of 1.5 grams per dose (meaning 3,000kg would equate to 2,000,000 doses), such a plan would, in all likelihood, barely touch the surface of demand (which, recall, is currently being serviced – unsuccessfully – by 668 poached rhino in 2012 and possibly as many as 900+ rhino in 2013). Therefore, in my view, poaching will continue and possibly increase since poachers will undercut whatever the legal price is set at (which is likely to be high to generate income and, supposedly, drive down demand – which it won’t).
Furthermore, creating a legal market has one other devastating impact. It will confirm in the minds of many purchasers that using rhino horn has medicinal validity – even when we know it does not. Minister Molewa, the Chair of the Private Rhino Owners Association of SA, the Chair of the Professional Hunters Association of SA, the Secretary General of CITES, the SA Ambassador to Thailand and Johnny de Lange MP (amongst others on the panel) were asked – by me in person, directly at a South Africa-hosted CITES side event on the 7th of March – (quoting The Mail and Guardian, 22nd March 2013) ‘to raise their hands if they believed rhino horn had medicinal benefits or could cure cancer. None of them did.’
So what are they saying by legalizing rhino-horn trade? Here is a product that every sensible scientist says has no significant impact and they are going to sell it at huge cost to a public that is ill-informed. I wouldn’t go to sleep at night if I thought I was selling something like that to a Vietnamese family who have scrimped and saved every cent to buy rhino horn for their dying grandmother, who then goes and dies.
SA seems determined to push for legal trade at CITES CoP17 in 2016. But they will need to get the support of 66% or more of the 178 CITES Parties. I can only hope and pray that common-sense and a degree of morality prevail, and that the proposal is soundly defeated. They need as many as 117 Parties to agree with their misguided proposal and we need to persuade those Parties to say NO!
There is nothing sensible, logical, ethical or acceptable about legalizing rhino horn trade – from natural mortality or anywhere else.
Read a full account of my intervention at the South Africa-hosted CITES side event on the 7th of March here.