Rhino conservation needs change

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: Dr Francois Deacon, Muhamnad Syamsudin, Dr Rudi Putra, Dr Firmanto Noviar Suwanda, and Dr Willem Daffue. PHOTO: CHARL DEVENISH

A rhino conservation initiative that took a group of South African and Indonesians on a two week cross country tour has highlighted the need for change in efforts. This comes after the Indonesian delegation who work with the most endangered rhinos on earth met with conservationists at the University of the Free State (UFS) last month.

The tour takes place on the backdrop of the rhino poaching incidences that have affected South African rhinos. According to veterinarian Dr Willem Daffue, current efforts to save the majestic animal are presently not as effective as they could be if changes were to be made in regulations.

“What we have been doing, is not working,” he said. “In the beginning, the animals died of thirst as the white rhino cannot lift its head to drink from a water trough, cold, and killing each other. Then poachers killed them,” added Daffue.

In 2009, South Africa saw an unprecedented spike in horn poaching, resulting in CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) implementing a ban on the sale of rhino horn within the country.

However role players agree that banning the trade in rhino horn is not the answer as the status quo is not working.

“All role players feel that if they could sell the horns, they could easily afford to keep the animals secure. The horns are harvestable we just trim them as with sheep’s wool. They grow back at up to 10 cm a year,” explained Dr Francois Deacon of the Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences at UFS.

“Decision making, specifically about legalising the trade in rhino horn, needs to change. Involved parties feel that countries must decide, or more specifically, the role players in the industry – people with a responsibility towards the animals. It must not be up to CITES,” he added.

Nomaqhawe Mtebele

nomaqhawe@mahareng.co.za