African states aim to hunt black rhino

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The Independent Online

Conservation groups have reacted with outrage to calls from South Africa and Namibia for the lifting of a ban on hunting the endangered black rhino.

Conservation groups have reacted with outrage to calls from South Africa and Namibia for the lifting of a ban on hunting the endangered black rhino.

The two states will seek approval for annual quotas for black rhino hunts at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in Thailand next month. It regulates the global trade in wild animal products.

An estimated 3,600 black rhinos survive, the majority in South Africa and Namibia, after the species was hard hit by poaching in the 1980s and early 1990s. The population plunged from more than 60,000 in the 1970s.

Gerhard Verdoorn, of South Africa's Endangered Wildlife Trust, said his organisation could not support the down-listing of black rhino for hunting because the species was still endangered.

The South African and Namibian governments argue, however, that the black rhino population has recovered to an extent after plummeting to about 2,000 in the mid-1990s, before the implementation of stringent anti-poaching measures and development of profitable game farming. They argue that all revenue from hunting will be re-invested in conservation.

Namibia is reportedly seeking an annual hunting quota of five rhinos out of its estimated population of 1,134, while South Africa wants a quota of 10 of its estimated 1,200.

Both countries have argued in their submissions that these quotas would have little or no impact on their black rhino populations.

However, Jason Bell-Leask, the southern Africa director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: "It's early days. The black rhino population is still recovering and the trade in rhino horn continues."

Cites allows limited hunting of white rhinos in South Africa, for which hunters can pay $20,000 (£11,000). A black rhino would cost much more.

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