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CITES backs Kenya’s proposal on rhino protection measures

Date Published: 23 Mar, 2010
CITES backs Kenya’s proposal on rhino protection measures

Two rhinos at Lake Nakuru National Park, picture courtesy, Ninian Lowis

Kenya’s proposal on better protection measures for rhinos has been passed at the international conference on wildlife currently underway in Doha, Qatar. The proposed amendments to CITES resolution on rhinos sought to strengthen the resolution and end illegal trade in rhino parts and derivatives. Countries where rhino products are used will now be obliged to report to CITES secretariat. The delegates agreed to focus on increasing law enforcement, training of guards, better border surveillance, enhanced rhino monitoring and awareness campaigns in consumer countries.

In the opening remarks when moving the motion, Kenya highlighted how poaching affected its rhino population in 2009. Kenya lost 20 rhinos (14 black rhinos (2.2 per cent) of total population of 600 black rhinos) and six white rhinos (1.8 per cent of total population of 300 white rhinos) to poaching. This was the first time such high level of poaching was recorded in the 25 year history of Kenya’s rhino conservation programme.High poaching levels are of great concern to conservation efforts as they significantly reduce the overall growth rate for rhinos in Kenya.  Similar negative effects were also reported by most countries with rhino populations.

Botswana, Indonesia, Israel, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain (on behalf of the European Union and its 27 Member States), Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Care for the Wild International and TRAFFIC, all expressed broad support for Kenya’s proposal particularly on the increased emphasis on consumer States to take measures to end the illegal use and consumption of rhinoceros parts and derivatives.“This is a milestone in global rhino conservation,” the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Hon Dr. Noah Wekesa said. “It renews commitment and collaboration by all governments to end this illegal trade in rhino parts,” he added.

Countries whose citizens are implicated in illegal trade in rhino horns spoke on the floor and assured the Conference of Parties of their commitment to end the illegal trade in rhino horn and agreed to report at every Conference of Parties on their efforts to end illegal trade in rhino parts within their countries. Most importantly they dissociated themselves from use of rhino parts and derivatives in their national traditional medicines.It was emphasised by all the Parties that spoke on the floor that the rule of law shall be continuously applied to those illegally using rhino parts and derivatives.

Dr. Wekesa thanked all Parties for their support, and said he was looking forward to a greater collaboration with all countries in ending demand for rhino parts and derivatives and increasing rhino populations in the wild.However, there was a general opposition to Kenya’s suggestion to destroy rhino horns stored in strong rooms. Kenya was willing to drop this suggestion by noting that the issue could be dealt with at a domestic level and that Parties opposed this in the interest of rhino conservation. Mr. Julius Kipng’etich, the KWS Director, reiterated that negotiations were a business of give and take, and that every country has to respect the sovereignty of each other. He further cautioned that despite this success on rhino issues at international level, there was no room for complacency and that vigilance should be observed at all times.

The chairman of the committee, Dr W. Dovey from New Zealand congratulated Kenya for leading a constructive debate on rhinos. Currently the world’s black rhino population is estimated at 4,200; white rhinos 17,000 and all Asian rhino do not exceed 2,800.  Rhinos are poached for their horns mainly for traditional medicine by some Asian communities. This is a fact that has been discounted scientifically and legally disowned by the governments of countries where such practices take place.

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