CITES Agree to almost double quota of black rhino that can be hunted as trophies in South Africa
On Monday 19th August the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to approve South Africa's application to almost double the number of black rhino that can be legally hunted as trophies in a year.
The new legislation states that 0.5% of South Africa's black rhino population can be hunted. The current estimated population of black rhino in South Africa is 2,000 which would equate to up to 10 hunting permits per year being issued.
Kenya's delegate at the CITES Conference of the Parties (COP) stated that this increase would equate to half of the increase in black rhino population each year being lost to hunting.
Helping Rhinos Analysis of the CITES decision
It is of course upsetting to all of us that any rhino will be killed. But we know that it is in South Africa's constitution to allow hunting, and this decision is sadly not a huge surprise.
As much as we hate to think of any rhino losing its life, there is an element of truth to comments stating that the increased hunting quota could increase the overall black rhino population as over aggressive males, past breeding age, will be removed from breeding herds allowing younger males to mate with the females. The issue we have is the word 'could'.
Yes, it is true that the overly aggressive males can prevent younger males from taking over, and it is likely that these males are being 'taken off' in some way today. But what guarantee do we have that it is these males that will be the ones hunted?
It is not clear where the up to ten rhino hunts will be carried out. What is the criteria to ensure the funds will go back into conservation as was argued by South Africa at the CITES COP18 meeting? And how can we be sure that it won't be a case of whoever has the best relationships with the office issuing the permits?
As much as we all hate the idea of a rhino losing its life for 'fun' or 'sport', if someone could prove that the funding from these hunts will help to protect the remaining 2,000 rhino we would probably accept it, through gritted teeth. But again, we unfortunately have no confidence that this will be the case and that the funds will end up being put to the best use to save these remaining rhinos.
The is another consideration and that is the hypocrisy a decision like this sends out. On one hand we are saying we must stop illegal poaching of rhino and on the other hand we are saying it is OK for a hunter to come to Africa and kill a rhino!!
What message does this send to the communities we are working tirelessly with to respect our wildlife and not kill it? We are saying it is not OK for you to kill a rhino, even though it could be financially life changing for you, but it is OK for a wealthy person from abroad to kill a rhino with the profits going to an already wealthy population (in most cases).
So, in summary it is not a good day and we are right to feel upset by it. But let's also remember that the level of poaching and habitat loss is a much bigger threat to the overall population of rhino. We will continue to focus on these main threats to the rhinos future and we hope you will continue to support our work in protecting these species of rhino in their natural habitat.