SA puts rhino on CITES agenda


    6 March 2013

    South Africa is one of 178 countries gathered in Bangkok this week to decide how to improve the world’s wildlife trade regime, and to ensure the survival of threatened species.

    More than 2 000 delegates are attending the 16th Conference of Parties of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which started in Thailand’s capital on Monday.

    The CITES parties meet every three years to consider amendments to the appendices of the convention, to assess its implementation, and to make recommendations to improve its effectiveness.

    South Africa is hosting and participating in a number of side events during the conference, three of which will focus on rhino matters, including conservation, safety and security, and rhino economics and trade.

    The Department of Environmental Affairs said that among the tabled proposals at the conference is a proposal to up-list the rhino due to poaching, from which several countries have suffered, including South Africa.

    “This would have widespread implications for South Africa’s white rhino population including the creation of disincentives for the private sector,” the department said.

    It said that central to South Africa’s conservation model was an “undisputed record” of having brought species populations to healthy recovery. Among these were the white and black rhino, which had come close to extinction almost a century ago.

    Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said last week that efforts to protect the country’s rhino population were aimed not just at protecting a species from extinction, but at securing and conserving all South Africa’s natural resources.

    “The fact that the criminal syndicates involved in rhino poaching also undertake other crimes means that this current situation can be considered a national security risk.

    “It is therefore imperative that the national response be comprehensive, as it threatens not only the sustainable development path of the country, but also the heritage of future generations.”

    Ahead of the conference, Molewa met with representatives of the Chinese and Vietnamese delegations to discuss issues of mutual cooperation in the field of biodiversity, particularly the continued illegal trade in rhino horn.

    The department said the discussions had “confirmed the two countries’ willingness to continue to cooperate with South Africa in the areas of law enforcement in relation to illegal trade in wildlife species”.

    The talks with Vietnam established that the implementation plan stemming from the Memorandum of Understanding relating to Biodiversity conservation, signed between the two countries in December, would be signed and rolled out during the visit of a high-level Vietnamese delegation to South Africa in April.

    Discussions with China had centred on the finalisation of a memorandum of understanding, also to be signed in April. The Memorandum on Biodiversity Conservation also deals with illegal rhino hunting and will also be followed by an implementation plan, similar to that concluded with Vietnam.

    The department said it was also agreed that China and South Africa would ensure the immediate roll-out of technological innovations in the fight against wildlife crimes. The matter will also be further discussed within the Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa (BRICS) member countries at bilateral and multilateral levels.