Trophy hunters in South Africa will now be able to kill a total of nine black rhinos a year; almost double the previous amount.
The decision to increase the quota was made at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which took place in Geneva this month.
CITES is an international agreement between 183 nations which aims to ensure international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Since 2003, South Africa has been allowed to sell hunting rights for five black rhinos a year, however the change in policy now allows for a total number of black rhinos not exceeding 0.5 per cent of South Africa’s total black rhino population to be killed.
With today’s population the change equals nine rhinos, however the number will vary as the population changes.
While poachers supplying the illegal trade in rhino horn decimated the population of black rhinos in the past, their numbers are now on the rise.
According to the International Rhino Foundation, the population of the species decreased by 96 per cent between 1970 and 1992. In 1993 there were only 2,300 surviving in the wild but the population is now thought to be between 5,042 and 5,455.
South Africa fought for the change in policy, arguing the money raised through hunting would actually support conservation of the critically endangered species. They said adult males would be targeted, in order to protect breeding females.
Though controversial, the decision was supported by a number of parties, including Botswana, Zimbabwe and Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), the EU and Canada.
The Guardian report Tom Milliken, a spokesperson for wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic, said the higher quota could help increase black rhino numbers as older males could cause conflicts, prevent younger males from breeding and even kill females.
It is a positive: you are basically preventing bar-room brawls and getting faster reproduction rates going.
He also pointed out the black rhino was one of the highest-priced trophy animals, costing tens of thousands of dollars to hunt. As a result, he said, trophy hunting would provide funds for conservation.
However, the move was opposed by both Kenya and Gabon. Kenya’s delegate argued increasing numbers would, when combined with poaching, result in almost half the black rhino population increase each year being lost.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also opposed the decision, with a delegate for wildlife charity Born Free saying South Africa rarely used its existing quota.
The country agreed not to use the full quota if the rhino population fell below a certain level, though it did not specify where the cut off would be.
Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy at Born Free, made a statement to UNILAD about the change:
In addition to the devastating impact this would have on the targeted animals, and the potential disruption it could cause to rhino sex ratios over time, the new quota could also undermine the principle of achieving an underlying population growth rate of at least a five per cent per annum, included in the African Rhino Conservation Plan to which South Africa is a signatory.
Born Free is opposed to any form of hunting for sport or pleasure. Moreover, we challenge the claims made by proponents of trophy hunting that it delivers significant conservation and community benefits, or that it positively contributes to the sustainable use of wildlife.
Born Free explain how trophy hunting supporters claim their activities somehow promote wildlife conservation, however there is evidence which shows hardly any of the revenues from trophy hunting ever actually reach local people or parks authorities, with corrupt officials and trophy outfitters taking most of the spoils.
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CreditsThe Guardian and 2 others
International Rhino Foundation
Born Free Foundation