2019 CITES conference has passed a controversial ruling that has left many questioning its intentions. South Africa now has the grant to let trophy hunters kill almost twice the digits of black rhinos than they could previously.
This decision will lead to the number of dead rhinos increasing from 5 rhinos a year to 9 a year, according to latest figures. CITES came to this decision after SA announced that they would utilize the money acquired from the trophy hunters in conservation efforts of those same black rhinos. IUCN Red List has black rhinos as “critically endangered” and SA would utilize the funds from hunting the older male rhinos to better protect the young and fertile rhinos. They have committed that they will not fulfill the 9-a-year quota if the numbers drop below a certain level. They haven’t yet specified that certain level.
Not everyone is happy with this decision. The voting was split. While Kenya advocated that when illegal poaching figures are considered, the total loss would negatively impact the endangered status of the animals. Many wildlife organizations and NGOs, including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), were also in opposition.
Yet, Botswana, Canada, and Zimbabwe, along with the European Union have extended their support. Tom Milliken, Traffic, explained to The Guardian how, when properly managed, this allowance of trophy hunting might help the rhinos. The thought is that when hunters kill the older males, the younger males will have more chances of mating and less competition. Since older ones are known to prevent young males from mating, this step could actually help boost the population.
Africa was home to nearly 65,000 unprotected black rhinos in the 1970s. The numbers were drastically affected in the early 1990s. But thankfully, through various efforts, the current number of black rhinos in the wild range within 5000-6000, according to the reports of the International Rhino Foundation.
While the numbers are slowly climbing up, the risk of illegal hunting, or poaching, still looms large. It’s the horn that poachers are after, which in the black market can fetch thousands of dollars. The effect of this new allowance on the rhino population is not very clear yet.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference is being held on August 17 to 28 in Geneva, Switzerland. The South African black rhino trophy hunting is just one of the multiple topics that will be discussed this year.
In the 1960s, this CITES convention was made up of 183 parties. It was meant to monitor the trading of wild animals and plants. More than 35,000 species are currently under its protection. Some other hot topics of discussion this year will be the marketing of exotic pets, ivory trade, and elephant population management.
We can only hope that things go as South Africa has planned and the population of these black rhinos grows soon. The earth belongs to the animals and plants as much as it belongs to humans.
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