Pretoria, 22 September 2016 – Swaziland’s proposal to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to legalise trade in rhino product should be supported to ensure the long-term survival of the species, Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) said today.
According to Pelham Jones, who heads WRSA’s rhino advisory committee and the independent Private Rhino Owners’ Association, South Africa will have lost 6 000 rhinos to poaching from 2008 to the end of 2016, 1 200 of which belonged to private reserves.
Jones says that the private sector owns 6 200 white and black rhino, which is almost a third of the total rhino population in South Africa, home to 90% (19 000) of all rhino species in the world. “In 2009, rhino could be found on 400 private reserves in South Africa. Today that number has dwindled to 330 and, in the process, approximately 200 000 hectares of habitat have been lost to conservation,” he says.
“The private sector played a key role in bringing back the rhino from the brink of extinction but today, with the exception of limited hunting, there is absolutely no incentive to keep them and we expect more and more private owners to dispose of their rhino,” Jones says.
The cost of rhino poaching to the private sector since 2009 is estimated to be around R420 million ($30 million) while the associated security costs of keeping rhino has soared to approximately R1.61 billion ($115 million) over the same period, without any external or state assistance, says Jones. “There’s clearly no investment case for keeping rhino anymore, not to mention the personal security threat to a landowner’s family and employees.”
President Wiaan van der Linde added that it is clear that not only has the 38-year old CITES-imposed ban on rhino product been an absolute failure by any measure, it has actually spurred on the decimation of the species by creating an environment favourable for multi-billion rand transnational criminal syndicates.
“We appeal to the delegates attending the CoP 17 later this month to remain true to CITES’s original aim of ‘ensuring the sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems, which support millions of rural communities as well as major industries’,” he says.
“With few exceptions, southern Africa is the custodian of the world’s last remaining rhino and so far the region has done an outstanding job of conserving the species. Sustainable utilisation is a policy that has allowed southern Africa’s rural communities to benefit from wildlife and, in the process, has allowed people and wild animals to live together. It’s high time the policy is applied to rhinos. If it’s not, we fear that the next time CITES meets in three years’ time, rhino will only be found in zoos and a few parks.”
For further information contact:
Wiaan van der Linde, president, on 082 454 5325
Adri Kitshoff-Botha, chief executive, on 083 650 0442
Pelham Jones, chairman Private Rhino Owners Association, on 082 299 3161