This week, a large rhino horn seizure in Hong Kong may provide clues to a rhino horn supplier network – if DNA sampling requests are fulfilled.
Meanwhile, a contingency of rhino ranchers in South Africa continue their crusade to profit (legally) from the rhino crisis.
Cape Town shipment
On Tuesday, customs officials in Hong Kong discovered 33 rhino horns, along with 758 ivory chopsticks and 127 ivory bracelets hidden in a shipping container that arrived from Cape Town, South Africa.
The wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said in a media release that the South African Department of Environmental Affairs has requested DNA samples of the rhino horns from Hong Kong authorities to help identify their origin.
Port officials told RTHK that the rhino horns and ivory were en route to a “neighboring country”.
World-renowned rhino horn and ivory trade expert Dr. Tom Milliken suspects that the shipment was headed for China.
The fact worked ivory was also present suggests the 33 rhino horns were likely destined for the greater Chinese market.
That’s a very worrying development given the scale of this seizure, and an important indication that the Chinese market is becoming an active phenomenon in rhino horn trafficking.
A photo of the seizure can be seen on Sulekha.com.
Charges have been filed against a man who is believed to have stolen a rhino head from Surrey’s Haslemere Education Museum in May of this year.
According to the BBC, Jamie Channon was remanded in custody after appearing before magistrates in Guilford.
He was charged with “conspiracy to burgle” and will return to court again in December.
Thefts of rhino horns from museums have been on the rise, and linked to the illegal Chinese medicine trade.
Over the weekend, South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association held a meeting to “give factual feedback to owners, discuss the proactive needs going forward and secure a mandate on policy issues related to the protection and preservation of privately owned rhino in SA”.
However, a set of publicly available “notes” – allegedly taken by an attendee – suggest that the “rhino summit” was actually a lobbying tactic for the interests of a few rhino owners who are hoping to “legalize” rhino horn trade.
Not a single speaker who was anti-legalisation was given an opportunity to present argument which tells me that they only present a portion of private rhino owners.
But this is not the first time South African “rhino summit” organizers have been charged with an ulterior motive.
In fact, the above-referenced “notes” echo the feedback from Africa Geographic‘s Ian Michler, regarding a similar “rhino summit” held in 2010.
… believing that the solution lies merely in a call to farm horns smacks of opportunism at the expense of biological and conservation integrity – and it does absolutely nothing to address what is in fact criminal activity.
Besides, is it not this same type of thinking, so pervasive in our wildlife management and private ranching sector, that is partly to blame for us being in this situation in the first place?
Major international conservation groups, including Humane Society International and Care for the Wild International, do not appear to support a “legal” trade in rhino horn. (A detailed presentation by HSI and CWI on the topic can be found here.)
For example, Humane Society International recommends that South Africa stop exporting live rhinos to China, Vietnam and other consumer countries, and also that private rhino horn stockpiles be destroyed.
Dr. Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC pointed out recently that the rhino ranchers who are advocating such a position have no one to negotiate with except organized criminal syndicates, since rhino horn trade in internationally banned.
It must also be noted that rhino horn, in fact, has no proven medicinal value, which certainly raises questions about the rationale behind a “legal” rhino horn trade.
Of jackasses and rhinos
Good job, poachers! May your asses wind up on the poopdecks of Hell with rectums eternally impaled upon great knobbly butt-plugs carved from the very rhinoceros horns you so bastardly poached in life.
Well said, good sirs!