CITES March 3-14: What does it mean for Rhino and other endangered species?

Black Rhino and White Rhino are being poached at the rate of 2 a day in South Africa by organized wildlife crime syndicates and being trafficked to Asia.

Black Rhino cow with calf – by Andrew Cairncross

Where is the concern?

With the huge rhino losses being experienced in the Kruger National Park and other public and private game reserves (2,400 since 2006 : 668 in 2012) South Africa appears not to have submitted any proposals to CITES.  All the while trophy hunting and poaching put Black Rhino and White Rhino at ever increasing risk. This seems incomprehensible!

Black Rhino CITES status: Critically Endangered

White Rhino CITES status: Lower Risk

What is CITES

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) 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.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union).

The conference included representatives from 80 countries, today there are 177 Parties.

How CITES works

CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.

The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need.

Appendices I and II

Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

Appendix III

Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. Changes to Appendix III follow a distinct procedure from changes to Appendices I and II, as each Party’s is entitled to make unilateral amendments to it.

What’s at Stake at the March 3-14 Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand?

There are 71 proposals on the table to be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the Conference impacting wildlife, flora and fauna species that are at risk on our planet.

Proposals that impact the rhino in Africa:

It appears that Kenya is the only African nation to submitt a proposal that impacts Rhino, in particular the White Rhino.

From Kenya: To amend the annotation for Ceratotherium simum simum as follows:

“Ceratotherium simum simum (Only the populations of South Africa and Swaziland; all other populations are included in Appendix I. For the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations and hunting trophies. Hunting trophies from South Africa and Swaziland shall be subject to a zero export quota until at least CoP18. All other specimens shall be deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix I and the trade in them shall be regulated accordingly)”

The proposed amendment would result in a trade regime for hunting trophies from the Appendix-II listed Ceratotherium simum simum populations of South African and Swaziland that is more restrictive than that for range States whose populations are included in Appendix I (noting that the populations of South Africa and Swaziland do not meet Appendix-I criteria).

It would prevent South Africa and Swaziland from a using a management option that can be sustainable and beneficial for the conservation of the species; discourage the involvement of private landowners in the conservation of white rhinoceroses and undermine national and local rhino management strategies. South Africa has recently taken significant steps to improve its management of rhino hunting and the supporting statement does not show that trophy hunting, as currently regulated and enforced in South Africa, is negatively impacting the populations of C. s. simum in that country.

The available information suggests the contrary. A precautionary approach that acts in the best interest of the conservation of the species therefore consists in keeping those management options in place that have successfully contributed to the restoration of C. s. simum in South Africa and Swaziland, ensuring that abuses are minimized and effective regulatory provisions strictly adhered to.

Based on the information available at the time of writing (late January 2013), the Secretariat recommends that this proposal be rejected.

It’s hard to believe that South Africa, home to over 90% of the world’s surviving rhino, has not availed itself to address this in some shape or form at the CITES conference. The rhino is a member of the BIG FIVE, along with the lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard.

Isn’t it these magnificent animals that attract tourists to South Africa?

Leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant, lion – Source: mnepostcards.blogspot

What will happen if one of these iconic species is lost?

What will that say about South Africa and its commitment to its stewardship?

Sadly this whole situation with the rhino makes it blatantly obvious that wildlife no longer matters for wildlife’s sake. “If it doesn’t pay it doesn’t stay” I recall how I cringed in disbelieve when I first heard that phrase. My homeland showing such disrespect to the very creatures who make it what it is…. Africa!

However, before we all throw in the towel… we cannot give up, because there are many dedicate folks who do care, who do fight for the rhino and all endangered and threatened wildlife species in South Africa. One of them is Peter. Peter Milton and his team from SPOTS are passionate, committed and devote their time and resources to curb the killing. That’s why we support their work via Stop the Rhino Poachers and Save the Last Rhinos. Feel free to join us.


This just brought to our attention! Cited in “The Independent” a UK Online News Service…

At the Bangkok conference, which begins on Monday, Vietnam will be offered a comprehensive demand-reduction strategy for illegal rhino horn, which has been drawn up by a group from the Cites Standing Committee, chaired by Britain, and which focuses on public awareness. Similar suggestions will be offered to China about reducing the size of the massive illegal ivory market (made more complicated by the fact that there is also a legal ivory market in the country).

Many thanks to the folks outside of Africa who are working hard to save the rhino.

[Added March 1]

With the CITES convention on two days away South Africa finally takes a position on the rhino poaching crisis.

For more information on CITES and the rhino…

Full IUCN Species Survival Commission Report on the Rhino

The CITES Secretariat and the Rhino, the full report

Statement by Margot Stewart from Rhino SOS on the Secretariat’s Report

Simon Bloch’s recent piece “African Governments Failing the Rhinos” a concise report on the status of the rhino, where the poachers come from, wildlife trade, crime syndicates and what needs to be done now.

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