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04 Oct 2004 13:38
Wildlife conservationists and government delegates on Monday approved proposals by Namibia and South Africa to kill and export as hunting trophies a small number of endangered black rhinos, protected under an international treaty.
The African countries made the requests at a two-week conference in Bangkok of thousands of delegates from the 166 countries that have signed the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or Cites.
Namibia and South Africa were granted permission to ship five of the mammals each annually—all as hunting trophies—pending final approval at the meeting’s conclusion next week. South Africa had asked to export 10 black rhinos, but halved the amount due to opposition.
“They’ve never had export quotas for them.
They’re remarkable animals, they’re very rare,” said Michael Williams, a spokesperson for the UN Environment Programme.
Although Cites prohibits trade in the rhinos, hunting trophies can be considered exceptions.
Black rhinos historically have been hunted by settlers and big-game hunters, which reduced the mammals’ numbers during the colonial era.
From 1970 through the 1990s, black rhinos were intensely poached and their numbers plummeted from an estimated 100 000 to fewer than 3 000, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Poachers seek rhinoceros horns because they are used as a fever-reducing ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine and for making dagger handles in the Middle East.
In June, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the World Wide Fund for Nature said Africa’s endangered black rhinoceros population had increased by 500 in the past two years, to 3 600 in southern Africa.
Namibia received overwhelming support because of its successful conservation efforts and pledges to kill only older males, unlikely to reproduce, and use some profits to help strengthen protection programmes. Also, the exports are just a fraction of Namibia’s total rhino population.
South Africa’s downscaled proposal was also widely endorsed, but drew criticism from some countries and the World Wildlife Fund, which expressed concern that it is unprepared to manage black rhino trophy hunting.
Earlier Monday, Namibia and South Africa also won approval for export quotas for leopards, also protected by the treaty. Limited trade in the cats has occurred in the past with the consent of Cites.
The treaty, established in 1975, is meant to protect about 30 000 animals and plants, some of which are threatened with extinction due to commercial trade. About 50 proposals are expected to be submitted during the meeting to legitimise or block trade in some species. - Sapa-AP
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