Rhino horn sales defeated at CITES CoP17

Fierce opposition - including that of Education for Nature – Vietnam - has defeated the attempt by Swaziland to have trade in rhino horn legalized.


The small African country with the backing of some big game interests in South Africa had wanted to sell off a 330kg stockpile of seized and naturally collected rhino horn in order to raise around $10 million USD for anti-poaching measures to protect Swaziland’s 73 remaining white rhino. But the ranks of other parties at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of CITES in Johannesburg, South Africa voted resoundingly against the move.


As well as selling the stockpile to the traditional medicine markets of the Far East, Swaziland was also pushing for the sale of a further 20kg on an annual basis, raising $600,000, by harvesting horns from living herds and re-growing horns from dehorned rhinos.


The arguments marshaled against Swaziland were that creating a legal trade would legitimize rhino horn, run the risk of fuelling consumer demand in turn threatening wild populations and provide a mechanism for illegally obtained rhino horn to be laundered.


Fears were also expressed that making rhino horn legal again would undermine the significant demand reduction and public education initiatives in key markets, initiatives that are beginning to show encouraging progress.


Critics of the proposal also pointed out Swaziland had failed to detail how the proposed legal trade might operate and did not demonstrate how its proposal would benefit wider rhinoceros conservation and protection.