January 01, 2014

Rhinos and the Illegal Horn Trade Top CITES Agenda

Craig T. Donovan

The sharp rise in rhinoceros poaching in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and the involvement of criminal organizations in the illegal rhinoceros horn trade, were two of several important issues at the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP16) held in Bangkok, Thailand, March 3–14, 2013. The Convention adopted or revised several measures, which became effective on June 12, 2013, to control rhino poaching and the illegal horn trade. These measures were based on findings in a report (Joint Report) from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC) African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups and TRAFFIC to the CITES Secretariat.

CITES is an international treaty between governments, drafted from a resolution adopted by the IUCN in 1963. The primary objective of the Convention is to regulate the illegal wildlife trade. What Is CITES, available at www.cites.org. The treaty establishes a licensing system for the import, export, reexport and introduction of regulated species. Each member nation to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities to administer the licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to advise each member on the effects of the trade on a species’ status. Id. CITES also establishes a framework, whereby each member should act to be the best protectors of their own wild fauna and flora. Id. Each member may establish domestic legislation to implement the treaty, clarify its effects, and allow for the treaty’s enforcement through its judicial system.

CITES regulates species listed on three Appendices, according to the degree of protection required for each species. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction and prohibits trade in these species unless exceptional circumstances are shown. Mara E. Zimmerman, The Black Market for Wildlife: Combating Transnational Organized Crime in the Illegal Wildlife Trade, 36 Vanderbilt J. of Transnat’l Law, 1657, 1663 (Nov. 2003). Appendix II lists species whose trade must be carefully regulated for sustainable development and to prevent the species from becoming threatened. Appendix III’s listings concern species that are usually not threatened with extinction but may be rare in nature requiring protection within a member nation. Id.

Rhinoceroses have existed for approximately 50 million years and were once found extensively throughout Eurasia and Africa. Today, only five species of rhinoceros remain in the world, and all face serious threats to their survival. Three species of rhinoceros exist in Asia: the Sumatran rhinoceros (Didermocerus sumatrensis), the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), and the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). In Africa, there are two species of rhinoceros: the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and the Northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), which are the focus of the poaching and the illegal wildlife trade discussed in this article.


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