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3 Oct

Opposing sides join forces to save rhinos – Africa Geographic

Opposing sides join forces to save rhinosPosted on 2 October, 2015 by Anton Crone in Conservation, News, Poaching — 0 CommentsPosted: October 2, 2015 241 11 Google +15 0 0

RHINO-PLAN

An announcement made in Cape Town could mark the first step in reaching consensus on saving the rhino species.South African rhino populations are being decimated by poachers who supply an illegal market for rhino horn. By far the largest consumers are Asians, buoyed by the false assumption that rhino horn has medicinal properties. It has also become a status symbol in an increasingly wealthy Vietnamese population where it is ingested like cocaine. Gram for gram, rhino horn is more valuable than cocaine and gold, and demand is growing.Analysis of the solutions has led to the development of two camps – one proposing a legalisation of trade as a means to end poaching, the other believing non-trade solutions are best. At the initiative of Accountability Now, four leading figures from each side of the debate have joined forces. The two against legalisation of trade are conservationist Ian Michler and retired safari operator Colin Bell, while those for legalisation are conservationist and a director of Accountability Now, Braam Malherbe, and economist Dawie Roodt.RHINO-PLANFrom left: Ian Michler, Braam Malherbe, Colin Bell and Dawie Roodt at the press briefing. ©Anton Crone“The plan attempts to find the very necessary resources in order to save rhinos,” said Malherbe in his opening address at the press conference in Cape Town on Thursday.Dubbed ‘The Plan’, their Integrated Rhino Poaching Strategy says that, after much heated debate between the four, both sides have agreed to forge a new pragmatic partnership that brings together their combined energies, with the aim of creating a unified rhino survival strategy.“We have to get rid of the bickering. This anti-trade, pro-trade constant lobbying is only benefiting one organisation and that is the criminal syndicates,” said Bell. “When we get rid of our fringe elements… suddenly we find that we’re all on the same page.”“It’s far easier to take an extremist view. It’s much more difficult to be a pragmatist. Being a pragmatist requires greater consideration, and it requires greater commitment,” said Michler. “In essence, what the four of us are trying to do is put forward a new governing policy for our rhinos.”The Plan is not a detailed comprehensive strategy, but rather a working paper. Much of it hinges on the creation of a Tourism Conservation Fund geared towards financing anti-poaching initiatives, and the acceptance by the pro-traders that a legal trade stands very little chance of being sanctioned by the international community.Pro-trade lobbyists have been looking to the 2016 CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting in South Africa as the place to put their case forward. But in order for such a proposal to succeed, it needs the support of more than two thirds of parties voting. This is highly unlikely given that the vast majority of member countries are opposed to a legal trade in endangered species.Despite this, Malherbe made a point of saying that “if legalisation in trade in rhino horn happens any time sooner than next CITES 2020, both Colin and Ian have agreed to support all initiatives to protect this iconic species.”rhinos© Janine AveryThe key points that the parties agree on are:1. The creation of a Tourism Conservation Fund. Initiated by Colin Bell and in the creation phase with what Bell promises are many willing supporters, the aim is to garner funding from the tourism industry, chiefly by means of a voluntary contribution added to guest invoices. Among other things, the funds would go towards such things as improving security operations, Intensive Protection Zones for rhinos, equipment for anti-poaching operations, better training for rangers, and a more concerted intelligence effort – one aspect being rewards for information on the middlemen improvement of gate and customs control.Commenting on this, Bell said: “If we take the industry at ZAR220 billion (including domestic tourism), and we have 50% sign up, we can get well in excess of ZAR500 million per year. And we can grow that to a billion rand a year with proper marketing and proper sign up.”“The issue about funding of this plan is something I was a bit concerned about,” said Roodt, adding that we could not rely on state funding. “The ‘levy’ is probably the best solution to fund a programme like this,” emphasising the importance of attracting more tourists to South Africa, and not hindering them with visa regulations.2. Strengthening policing and the judicial system through a special investigative wildlife crimes unit, specialised training of law enforcement officers, stiffer bail conditions and harsher sentences for poachers and traffickers.3. Improving the lives of communities in or near wildlife areas. Poor living conditions means poachers emerge from these communitie

Source: Opposing sides join forces to save rhinos – Africa Geographic