UN boosts drive for global crackdown on rhino horn trade

Black marketeers should be punished with the same severity as drug traffickers, says Cites

A A A

The price of a single rhino horn has reached half a million dollars and, with its value per kilo exceeding that of cocaine, poaching of the animals has reached unprecedented heights. Yesterday, the world's wildlife trade watchdog said that the smuggling of the horns should be punished with the same severity as drug running.

Poaching is killing many hundreds of rhinos a year, with 174 slaughtered illegally between January and June this year in South Africa alone – exceeding the rate of kills for the previous year.

The dramatic surge in rhino poaching is being fuelled by demand from Asia and soaring prices, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) said. More resources are urgently needed with almost half of the 175 countries in the convention not having adequate legislation to penalise poachers, it added.

John Scanlon, Cites secretary-general, said: "We are trying to find new ways of putting poachers out of business because the traditional enforcement is not effective. It's the same as the drugs trade and other types of organised crime: when you arrest one poacher, there are 10 ready to take the position. It is a very lucrative activity, and the risk of law enforcement and penalties are not as much of a deterrent as they are for drug trafficking. [The price of rhino horn] is higher than that of cocaine now."

Britain confirmed last night it has secured international agreement to clamp down on the illegal trade in rhino horn. The UK will lead a global steering group to dispel the myths around rhino horn cures. There have also been calls for debate on what to do with stockpiles of rhino horn, and whether they might be used to help alleviate the extreme pressures being caused by demand. South Africa, which has more rhinos than any other African country, is thought to be the source of most of the illegal horns.

"In South Africa now, they are really giving priority to this problem. They created a national joint security committee which is conducting Operation Rhino," Mr Scanlon said.

A single rhino horn is worth $500,000 (£303,000), with a kilo fetching $50,000, which explains the huge surge in illegal poaching, Cites said. Between January and 15 June, 174 rhinos were killed illegally in South Africa, a faster rate than the 333 killed for the whole of 2010. Some 121 animals were killed in the Kruger National Park (KNP), a protected rhino conservation area. There have been 122 arrests of suspected rhino poachers in South Africa this year, with 60 arrested in the KNP.

Mr Scanlon added: "The KNP is the protected area that has suffered the most losses. Some of the poachers have come over the border with Mozambique. And at least one kingpin from Thailand has recently been arrested in South Africa.

"We have said for a while that in certain countries in Asia, such as Vietnam, it is believed that this is a cure for cancer. But this does not necessarily explain why prices are rocketing now. We think it may be connected to the financial crisis and people may be buying it alongside gold as a safe commodity."

The latest International Union for Conservation of Nature statistics show that South Africa currently has 18,780 white and 1,906 black rhinos.

Cites has called for stiffer penalties for poachers, saying they should face sanctions comparable to drug dealers. Oeystein Stoerkersen, who chairs a Cites committee, said: "If you are caught with a kilo of rhino horn, you are likely to get away with it. We need to step up the penal code; the punishment for poaching needs to be much harsher."

Suggested Topics
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£35-45K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer / Web ...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Manager - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Commercial Manager is required to join a lea...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£18000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first ...

Recruitment Genius: .NET Web / Software Developer - ASP.NET

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Small and agile digital marketi...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders