TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES WILL NOT BE TOLERATED
September 8, 2016 – The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) lauds the US Fish and Wildlife Service for burning its stockpile of confiscated rhino horn. This planned destruction, which will take place at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, comes just before World Rhino Day on September 22 and weeks prior to the international world wildlife conference, CITES (see Editor’s Note, below).
“This rhino horn burn sends the message to criminal networks and to rhino horn buyers that the United States will not tolerate illegal trade in rhino horn,” said IRF Executive Director Dr. Susie Ellis. “The high demand for this commodity results in dire consequences for rhino species. Today’s burn makes clear that confiscated horns should not be stockpiled, let alone traded.”
These events tend to draw heavy media coverage, highlighting the extinction risk faced by the species and motivating citizens and other governments to see illegal horn trade as unacceptable. The San Diego burn will be closely followed by international representatives convening in South Africa later this month for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties (CoP).
Kenya and Mozambique have already destroyed the majority of their rhino horn stockpiles. Kenya was the first country to destroy its horn stockpile in 1989. World-renowned conservationist and first chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service Richard Leakey said, “The public burning of rhino horn is a very worthwhile demonstration of the crisis facing rhinos worldwide.” The second burn, held in April 2016, destroyed 1.65 tons of rhino horn, along with a staggering 105 tons of elephant ivory.
Zoos and private reserves in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Great Britain, Singapore, France, Poland, and Estonia have also burned rhino horn in public events. These high-profile events have gained international media attention and are intended to send the message that ‘only a rhino needs a rhino horn.’ There are many reasons that rhino horn stockpiles should be destroyed.
“With the increasing value of rhino horn, stockpiles present a high-value target for theft,” explained Ellis. “No matter how well guarded, stockpiles can still be vulnerable. In countries with limited resources to protect stockpiles, or with concerns about corruption, destroying horns can eliminate the risk of confiscated horn from entering the black market.”
In April 2014, 112 horns were stolen during a nighttime raid at South Africa’s Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. Security personnel at private game ranches have also experienced home invasions where their families were violently assaulted in attempts to steal rhino horn from stockpiles. Evidence is emerging that other government stockpiles are being raided as well: in August 2016, the Rhino Horn Verification Committee in Assam, India examined several state treasuries and found that at least five of the confiscated rhino horns were fake.
“Today’s event reinforces the critical message that the illegal trade in rhino horn will not be tolerated and that conservation of these threatened species is a priority for both the US and the global community,” said Ellis.
EDITOR’S NOTE: World Rhino Day is September 22, 2016 and the 17th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17) will convene in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 24 September to 5 October 2016. CITES meets once every three years and is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.