What’s going on with legal rhino horn trade? 犀牛角贸易解禁了吗?

Recently, the homeland of thousands of hundreds of rhinos – South Africa has lifted its ban on domestic rhino horn trade.  Although the written judgement from Pretoria High Court seems not to be publicly available yet, some sources indicated that the judges questioned the effectiveness of the moratorium.

So far, the CITES ban on international trade in rhino horns seems to be unaffected, but it’s hard to tell whether the decision will be affected at the next CITES meeting, which will be taken place in September 2016. It will be a very interesting game of interest by then with some African nations and NGOs try hard to lobby against it.

All species of rhinos are at considerable risk of extinction with 4 out of 5 rhino species rate vulnerable or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. – I’m sure many readers have seen the horrific story of the world’s last northern White rhino in Sudan.  Even White Rhinoceros in South Africa is not listed as being in imminent risk of extinction, they are facing the greatest poaching crisis since the late 80s. According to the SA government figure, nearly 1200 rhinos were poached in 2014 alone.

Scenario Analysis: What Impact will the legal domestic trade bring?

Legal trade means more poaching?

It is very difficult to say, even for the elephant, which is probably species received the most attention at the moment due to its instinct link with terrorism and increasing political will. However, the current data may shed some light on to this issue.  According to the SA government figure, nearly 1,200 rhinos were poached in 2014 alone. In Namibia, rhino poaching has been increased over 300% with 79 rhinos slaughtered this year, – a sharp increase from the total of 25 rhinos poached in 2014, 4 poached in 2013, two illegally killed in 2012, and only one poached in 2011.

It will offer a legal cover for the illicit trade. Now there is a legal market available domestically, but not internationally. The market for rhino horns are outside of South Africa, far in Vietnam or China, and their appetite will only increase within time. Poachers and gangs will figure out ways to sell these “legal” horns inside this clandestine market.  Captive-bred tigers in China may share the similar situation. As Chinese government has opened a parallel legal market for captive-bred tiger skins, parts and other derivatives for “scientific or educational purposes”.   Tiger skin rug has been sold as luxury home décor for the symbol of social status and identity. It might also urge some speculative purchasing as the owners try to stock up for the potential price rise.

On the other side in China, an ex-firearm company Hawk Group recently announced on its website that its subsidy Longhui Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd has acquired the SFDA permission numbers for 35 type of drugs by purchasing another Pharmaceutical company. Interestingly, some of these 35 types of drugs are known for historically containing rhino horn ingredient. This is a perfect legal act and there is no evidence that Longhui is or has been using rhino horn ingredient in its drugs, nor the drugs have been in production.

A quick review of Longhiu’s history of importing rhinos for captive breeding in China. Since 2006, Longhui has been breeding white rhinos at its Hainan base, which were imported from South Africa. Later, a shocking business plan of “harvesting rhino horn” has been published on its local government’s website. Most recently, the director Zhang Juyan announced his ambition to have over 200 rhinos by 2016.

Again, everything they did seems to be perfectly legal and the plans are currently stays on paper. No evidence suggests any further move of the company, but it did ring a bell of demand in rhino horn as an ingredient for TCM market.

Stay wild xxx

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