On Monday 3rd October 2016 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) voted to continue a ban on any international trade of rhino at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17). This followed a proposal by Swaziland to allow them to legally trade horns recovered from their white rhinos.
It is a topic that has polarised the rhino conservation community for too long. The passions run high, whether you sit on the side of the fence that thinks selling rhino horn legally will help conserve rhinos, or you sit on the side of the fence that thinks a legal trade will expidiate the extinction of the majestic rhinoceros. To see such passions for our rhino is the positive side of the debate. The negative side is that it has driven a wedge between people who all say they have the same end goal - of saving our rhino.
The vote was a convincing one with 26 countries voting in support of Swaziland's proposal, 17 countries abstaining and 100 voting against to proposal.
CITES is the body that dictates the trade policy of endangered fauna and flora, and they have made their decision. The next CoP is in three years time and there will therefore be no additional vote in that time. Helping Rhinos believe that the right decision was made at CITES CoP17, but the time now is to look forward and find a way for us all to work together. Indeed, as HRH Duke of Cambridge stated in September 2016: "If we are to succeed, we must do more, we must do it better and we must do it faster. But most importantly, we must do it together."
We agree with Prince William, and believe we must now join forces. Our collective efforts against the real enemy, the poachers and the poaching syndicates must now be the focus.
What today's decision will mean for rhinos in the short, mid and long term will now be seen. There will of course still be differences of opinions, but the rhinos and the rhinos alone must now be our sole focus.
We will continue dedicate ourselves to our projects in the field, to raising awareness of the issues facing rhino in their natural habitat, and to engaging with the next generation, and we look forward to your collective support going forward.