JOHANNESBURG — Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) have voted overwhelmingly to protect rhinos by rejecting a proposal to legalize the rhino horn trade. The proposal submitted by Swaziland to legalize rhino horn trade was defeated 100-26 with 17 abstentions.
Over the past decade, nearly 6,000 rhinos have been killed for their horns — primarily in South Africa, where 5,098 were poached between 2005 and 2015 to supply a lucrative black market.
Proponents of legal trade argue that they can tightly control the trade by limiting it solely to horn legally taken from living rhinos and legitimate stockpiles, and claim they will use the revenue to support anti-poaching.
BANGKOK — Positive news for elephants continues this week with the release of a report detailing Bangkok’s shrinking ivory market. An 18-month survey of Thailand’s capital by TRAFFIC found a 96% drop in the number of ivory products available at retail markets from a high of 7,421 ivory items in 2014 to just 283 products earlier this year. The steep decline follows rigorous actions taken locally to comply with the National Ivory Action Plan.
Thailand’s Elephant Ivory Act regulates the country's legal market in ivory from domesticated elephants. The government has also prohibited the trade and sale of ivory from African elephants by enacting an amendment to the country's existing Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, making African elephants a protected species in Thailand.
Over the past decade, nearly 6,000 rhinos have been killed for their horns — primarily in South Africa, where 5,098 were poached between 2005 and 2015 to supply a lucrative black market. Yet this week at the world’s largest-ever wildlife trade conference, some officials continue to advocate for legalizing the rhino horn trade.
A ban on international trade of the horn has been in place since 1997, but that hasn’t stopped the killing and poaching. However, there’s some good news: Wholesale and retail prices for rhino horn fell to half of their 2013 prices, due to growing awareness of the devastating impacts to the endangered and threatened species.
Good news! Today, the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has voted to protect all eight species of pangolins - small and reclusive scaly mammals being driven to near extinction by unsustainable poaching. Pangolins will be uplisted to CITES Appendix I, which bars international trade and provides for better domestic protection in key countries such as Vietnam and China.
"Rarely has CITES been so united. This action today was much-needed if pangolins are to survive and may be one of the most important outcomes of this meeting," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said from the CITES Conference of the Parties in Johannesburg. "That these proposals to protect pangolins came from countries like Vietnam and were passed with near-unanimous support is highly encouraging. The challenge now is law enforcement and demand reduction, but the uplisting will help both. Penalties will now be much higher in key countries."
WildAid is already engaged in reducing demand in China and Vietnam in celebrity led campaigns and has released footage of pangolin capture and trade. Its report Pangolins: On the Brinkidentifies consumer demand for pangolin scales and meat as the primary driver of the eight pangolin species' sharp decline throughout Africa and Asia.
Demand for pangolin scales (used in Traditional Chinese Medicine) as well as pangolin meat, considered by some as a delicacy, is highest in China and Vietnam. Though there is no scientific evidence to support alleged curative properties or the keratin scales, a 2015 WildAid survey found that 70% of Chinese believe pangolin products have medicinal value; scales are used to "cure" rheumatism, skin disorders and wound infections. In Vietnam, 64% of survey respondents said they had heard about the "curative" properties of pangolin scales.
Though banned for over 20 years as traditional medicine in China, rhino horn consumption has recently surged in countries such as Vietnam, where horn powder is marketed as a “cancer cure” to desperate patients who lack access to adequate medical care. It’s also used as a non-traditional “recreational drug” and hangover cure. Despite these new uses, rhino horn has no unique medical properties and is primarily composed of keratin, the same protein found in human hair and fingernails.
“Say No to Rhino Horn,” a three-year project of WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and the Vietnamese nonprofit organization CHANGE, is working to dispel widespread myths of rhino horn’s potency by partnering with influential celebrities, entrepreneurs, media partners and religious leaders.
Over the past few months, our Vietnam team organized a nationwide effort to build support among Buddhist communities in speaking out against rhino horn trafficking and consumption. Supported by some of Vietnam’s most-respected monks, the campaign has attracted over 14,000 Buddhists across Vietnam, and has been featured on dozens of Buddhist popular media channels such as Giac Ngo (Buddhist Enlightenment) newspaper and Hoang Phap pagoda website.