The decision by China to legalise the use of rhino horn for “medical purposes” has raised concerns among conservationists of an anticipated slump in rhino numbers, which have hitherto been rising.
The population of rhinos in the country has been on a steady rise in recent times on the back of a 1993 ban that played a major part in their conservation by shrinking the market for rhino horns, with the number of Black rhinos doubling this year for the first time in 35 years.
According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, at the end of 2017, Kenya had a total rhino population of 1,258. This year, black rhino numbers hit 750, according to report by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), from 350 in 1983.
Conservation efforts were dealt a serious blow this year after 11 rhinos died in a bungled translocation exercise to the Tsavo National Park. The latest decision by China comes as a kick in the teeth of conservationists.
While the Asian nation insists that only horns harvested from farmed rhinos will be allowed and that it will still combat illegal trade, this latest move is likely to open the floodgates for rhino poachers especially in Africa.
“It is deeply concerning that China has reversed its 25-year-old tiger bone and rhino horn ban, allowing a trade that will have devastating consequences globally.
“Not only could this lead to the risk of legal trade providing cover to illegal trade, this policy will also stimulate demand that had otherwise declined since the ban was put in place”, said Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy, home to the last two Northern White Rhinos, said that the decision has only raised the threat to the endangered animals.
“This is a huge step backwards for wildlife conservation. Although these products have no known medicinal value, the re-legalisation has been approved for medical use, and will no doubt place these highly endangered animals under ever more intolerable pressure,” Ol Pejeta said in a statement.
The argument behind the legalisation is that it will enable ranchers who farm rhinos to get back money spent on protection of the animals.
Currently China and South Africa has allowed for farming of rhinos where their horns are safely harvested.
This is a practice that has for years drawn mixed reactions on the safety of the animals with ranchers insisting it is a way of ensuring that the animal is not killed for its horn.
But with ivory trade being illegal in most parts of the world, the ranches have not been getting returns for farming the animals and China’s lift on the ban is seen a doorway to those incentives.
A similar proposal is currently on the table for Kenyans seeking to ranch wild animals for commercial use. Conservationists, however, are not buying into the idea, terming it a death warrant to endangered animals.
Source link : https://allafrica.com/stories/201811010350.html
Publish date : 2018-11-01 10:08:33