Let me nail my colors to the mast: I salute the Kenyan President for the brave decision to destroy hundred of tonnes of ivory. This stockpile was amassed over the years from poachers and attempted illicit exports. It is a terribly sad indication of the greed of mankind and the destruction wrought on elephant populations (estimated to be close to 7,000 elephants) only because someone somewhere thinks an ivory trinket is ‘pretty’.
In his speech Mr Kenyatta said: “No-one, and I repeat no-one, has any business in trading in ivory, for this trade means death of our elephants and death of our natural heritage.”
As to emphasize the point, the director general of the Kenya Wildlife Service said “We don’t believe there is any intrinsic value in ivory, and therefore we’re going to burn all our stockpiles and demonstrate to the world that ivory is only valuable on elephants,”
In contrast to Kenya’s position on the destruction of ivory, South Africa’s announcement that although it will not put forth a rhino horn trade proposal at the upcoming Conference of the Parties to CITES, it will continue the ‘biological management’ of the hoarded rhino horn. In other words it will not be destroyed.
This decision to continue hoarding its rhino horn stockpile rather than disposing of it and its choice of the phrase “demand management” rather than “demand reduction” sends chills down my spine. If there is no value in rhino horn except for a rhino then why is South Africa hoarding under lock and key a mass of value animal products? Clearly the intention is not to put an end to the trade of this commodity and rather to send a message to the world that trade, eventually and at a more ‘convenient’ time, is inevitable.
And today, 30 April 2016, Swaziland submitted a proposal to CITES to be considered at its meeting in September (COP17). The surprising proposal seeks permission to allow Swaziland to sell existing and to-be-harvested stock of rhino horn on the world markets. A poor country, with 73 remaining rhinos, controversially sold 18 elephants about 3 months ago to the USA for $450,000 to “make room for rhinos”. Its actions are bad news for both elephants and rhinos – by encouraging the market in traded rhino horn it will decimate rhino population numbers.
Image attribution: (c) Mwangi Kirubi