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DSWF Calls on CITES Members to Grant Better Protection to Rhinos

4th March 2013
Absa the gentle giant took 5 days to die<br />&copy; Margaret Hickman

PRESS RELEASE

Conservationists Call on CITES Members to Grant  Better Protection to Rhinos
Investigations reveal loopholes in sport-hunting trophy trade

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and FREELAND Foundation call on CITES member countries to support a proposal by Kenya to this week’s 16th Conference of the Parties that grants increased protection to the rhinoceros.  The proposal asks South Africa and Swaziland to suspend exports of all rhino horn trophies from sport hunting, in order to help stop the highly lucrative black market trade for rhino horn.

An investigation supported by DSWF and FREELAND found that organized crime syndicates have been cheating the CITES system, which allows hunters to export rhino horns from range countries and import them to their home country for personal use.  Under this system, one hunter is allowed to kill one rhino per year and then take the horn home for display.  However, criminal gangs from Asia have been exposed teaming up with devious hunting companies and corrupt officials to order dozens of rhino kills at one time, legalizing the hunts with sport hunting permits, then transferring the horns into illegal commercial trade.  The channel often used to export the horns is from South Africa to Thailand, then on to Laos and Vietnam as the ultimate destination.

Despite Vietnam and South Africa's recent agreement to suspend permits that allow sport hunted rhino horns to go to Vietnam, DSWF and FREELAND discovered that horns are still being smuggled from South Africa to Vietnam. Moreover, some horns appear to be from poached rhinos in Kruger National Park, which are then taken to Asian gangs in Mozambique who smuggle them to Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

"The abuse of the current hunting permit system is exacerbating the crisis that currently faces the African rhino," said DSWF, CEO Sally Case. "Between Jan 1 and Feb 28, 2013 one hundred and twenty eight rhino were killed in South Africa alone and on Feb 1, the Kenyan National Economic and Social Council declared rhino poaching a national crisis with the Kenya Wildlife Service stating that if the current rate of decline continues, Kenya could lose its wildlife within a decade."

"In light of our joint investigations and the current poaching rates, it is vital that we champion a zero-tolerance position and support Kenya's proposal to suspend exports of all rhino horn. This would provide breathing space for rhinos and give exporting and importing countries a chance to put their houses in order, shut down the illegal trade and deal with corruption in the hunting industry," added Sally Case.

Steven Galster, Director of FREELAND added, “Over the last few years organized criminal syndicates have made millions of dollars abusing “sport-hunting” regulations to cover up their illegal exports of rhino horn to Asia. Meanwhile, the population growth of African rhinos has slowed to a level which truly threatens their future. Trophy exports need to be banned now before it’s too late.”

For more information, contact

Vicky Flynn:  Vicky.flynn@davidshepherd.org or call 44 1483 272323

Notes to Editors:

The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF)funds anti-poaching operations in rhino range states in Africa and in Kaziranga National Park, Assam. Currently funding undercover investigations with FREELAND and in Assam through the Aaranyak Society, DSWF also tackles the consumer end of the market and supports awareness campaigns throughout Africa and Asia. For more info, visit www.davidshepherd.org Also follow DSWF on twitter @TheDSWF or facebook.com/pages/David-Shepherd-Wildlife-Foundation/423360825223?ref=hl

FREELAND Foundation is an international organization dedicated to a world free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery. FREELAND works throughout Asia, raising public awareness and building local capacity to protect critical ecosystems, wildlife and vulnerable people. FREELAND is the lead implementing partner of ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking), a program sponsored by the United States Government. For more info visit, www.freeland.org  Also, follow FREELAND on twitter  @FREELANDpeople  or  facebook.com/freelandfoundation

 

 

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