SAVING THE RHINO FOR POSTERITY
The Wild Life Ranching South Africa, which I represent is in agreement with the view that the “Rhinos of Africa are in a more precarious position than is generally realized and that an urgent paradigm shift is necessary to reverse their current march to extinction.”
The statement that “rhinos will survive and thrive in the wild, where they, the rhinos can provide financially for their own protection, together with the long-term welfare of African parks and all that inhabit them, while bringing meaningful sustainable benefits to rural communities” resonates with the aims and objectives of Wild Life Ranching South Africa.
I am expected to speak under the theme “SAVING THE RHINO FOR POSTERITY.”
Allow me to postulate and to make the claim, not from a philosophical standpoint but from a purely human perspective.
Maybe if we pause a moment and climb off our high horse, this is not so much about saving the Rhino but about saving ourselves and redeeming the human species from the lowest depths of degradations, the moral and ethical degeneracy to which we have descended without any shame or decency.
We have arrogated to ourselves the power of life and death over other species which occupy our planet.
I must hasten to add that these species have every right to be here.
As human beings we are completely oblivious to the fact that even the ant that we trample upon on a daily basis, is there to serve a particular purpose in creating a balance in the ecosystem which in the end is about the survival of all living species in our planet.
There is a symbiotic relationship between all living organisms in the planet as well as the flora and fauna of the environment.
It does not matter how small the size of the ecosystem, in the end they are all part of the symbiotic community and the extinction of even the smallest insect may have devastating and lasting consequences for the planet.
It is in this regard that the saving of the Rhino is also about us, the very survival of the human species.
There is a Native American expression which speaks directly to the respect and the necessity to live harmoniously with nature.
The native Americans warn that “when the last tree has been cut, the last fish been killed and all the rivers poisoned, only then will human beings realize that you cannot eat money.”
I am happy that we as the human race have become cognizant of the havoc we have wreaked upon our planet in our quest for development into infinity.
By saving the Rhino among other species, we shall actually be redeeming ourselves and returning back to our humanity and accepting that planet earth belongs to all living creatures.
We have no right as human beings to play God and massacre the other inhabitants in the manner we have seen the Rhino being massacred almost to the point of extinction.
Our generation has been entrusted with a historical mission. We are the embodiment of our own past, the present and the future.
The decisions we take today will determine whether the decisions of yesterday are futuristic and the actions we take contribute towards building a sustainable future for humanity as well as our relatives in the animal kingdom, the forests and marine life.
We must be honest and courageous enough to accept that some of the decisions that we have taken have not produced the intended results!
We must accept that “Rhinos of Africa are in a more precarious position than is generally realized and that an urgent paradigm shift is necessary to reverse their current march to extinction.”
This statement reflects the true nature of the situation that is confronting us in the fight to save the Rhino. Since 2007 to 2018 “more than 7,912 African rhinos have been lost to poaching. In 2018 alone there was “769 recorded poaching incidents in South Africa.”
In an article published in January 2018, Rachael Bale made the assertion that “The number of Rhino poaching incidents in South Africa rose from 13 in 2007 to a high of 1,215 in 2014. With the release of 2017’s poaching statistics, it is clear that the crisis continues.”
The survival of the Rhino has been due, by and large to the commitment and dedication of the conservationists!
One can only quote the southern white Rhino which was brought back from the brink of extinction here in South Africa. At the dawn of the 20th century there were only about 50 to a 100 of these left in the wild. Today this Rhino species has increased to about 18 000!
Because of the tireless efforts to save the Rhino from extinction, South Africa is home to over 80 percent of the world’s rhino population!
This is further testimony that if the will is there, we can save the Rhino because there is empirical evidence that this can be done.
Allow me at this point to turn my attention directly to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
The Convention was signed at Washington D.C on the 3rd of March 1973, amended at Bonn on the 22nd June 1979 and again in Gaborone on the 30 April 1983. The mandate of its secretariat was to regulate commerce in wild flora and fauna. This was the correct step to take to protect threatened species from extinction.
However, experience has demonstrated that the trade ban on rhino horn that was introduced in 1977 has not succeeded to stop poaching and the demand for this product. Instead, as we have demonstrated above,” “Rhinos of Africa are in a more precarious position than is generally realized.”
I specifically want to draw attention to the Convention, because I have come to the realisation that there are various interpretations of the convention which are not homogenous.
Different interpretations may then lead to confusion within our ranks and we therefore appear as if we are not united in terms of our own demands.
The convention has about twenty- five articles, but I am more interested in article VII (seven), which I think relates to the issues we are seized with. I propose that we must drill a bit deeper in order to reach consensus and come to a common understanding.
I could even go so far as recommending that we invite our legal experts to give us a proper understanding of the clause because I believe very strongly that it may provide answers to the questions we are grappling with and enable us to adopt a common position.
The CITES convention recognises our right and explicitly states in the preamble of the convention
Recognizing that peoples and States are and should be the best protectors of their own wild fauna and flora
Furthermore, clause VII of the CITES Convention allows for trade in species that have been bred in captivity without endangering the wild life.
In this context it states that Specimens of an animal species included in Appendix I bred in captivity for commercial purposes, shall be deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix II.
We therefor do not have to necessarily be pre occupied with lobbying for a two thirds majority vote at the CITES in order to remove the international ban of trade in Rhino Horn
We must place reliance on the door that is already open through the correct interpretation of ARTICLE VII (seven) of the CITES multilateral treaty
We need a paradigm shift. We cannot allow ourselves to be held captive by moribund ideas which have failed the acid test of practical living.
It is an exercise in futility to continue to be bound by policies that have not produced results over time. We cannot continue to do one and the same thing over and over and expect different results.
That is the definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein. All ideas must be subjected to a rigorous test through observation, experience and experimentation.
This must provide us with the necessary empirical evidence about the veracity and accuracy of the ideas on the table upon which we shall base our decisions and consequently our actions. When we realise that there is a divergence between the information at our disposal and the hard facts, we must, as leaders, have the courage to discard and abandon the ideas that have failed the acid test of practical living reality!
We must have the will and the desire to vigorously pursue and promote those ideas that we are convinced through empirical evidence that they will lead to the required goal that we have identified.
Yet at the same time we must not be afraid to go back to the drawing board should new information be acquired which dictates that we need to revisit our decisions. That is the true test and art of leadership!
It is only in this way that we can
be certain that the decisions we take will produce the intended outcomes. As
leaders we must have the vision, the capability and the patience not to jump
into conclusions without having examined all the facts and information at our
On the other hand, based on the natural and scientific evidence that Rhino horn is a sustainable natural product. Competent breeding operations have the capacity to produce rhino horn through sustainable breeding programmes.
Rhino horn does grow back within a period of thirty six months post scientific and ethical harvesting, that you do not have to kill the Rhino in order to harvest its horn – there is merit in legalising the trade in Rhino horn within the strict supervision of the laws of our governments.
This is a renewable and sustainable resource which the constitution of the Republic empowers us to exploit for the benefit of the Rhino and the people of South Africa!
John Hanks wrote in the Daily Maverick of the 28 June 2018 that:
“John Hume, aged 76, has bred 1,279 white rhinos on his private property, and is currently protecting 1,626 rhinos of which 300 are pregnant therefore making it 1,926 lives of rhinos in total…”
Hanks goes further to make the pertinent point that Hume “has been remarkably successful and has lost just 32 rhinos to poachers, compared with 7,048 rhinos poached in the whole of South Africa since the Moratorium on Domestic Trade in Rhino Horn, up to and including 2017.”
As the debate about whether to legalise or not to legalise trade in Rhino Horn, the cost both in terms of human and financial resources continues to rise exponentially. The independent media IOL reports that “over 1000 game rangers across Africa have been killed trying to protect rhino and elephant from poachers.
One does not have enough time to enter into a polemical argument with some in the NGO community who have argued against legalising trade of the Rhino horn without presenting any empirical evidence to support their case.
Suffice it to quote Ivo Vegter in the Daily Maverick who crosses swords with Debbie Banks,on her comments about the Tigers bred in captivity in China.
She warns that “The huge number of tigers held or bred in captivity in China suggests there will be a major explosion in trade – and this can only lead to more tigers being poached in the wild.”
Vegter retorts by saying that there is absolutely no reason “why the opinions of armchair critics and slacktivists should prevail against professional experts in economics and conservation.”
In most cases the critics do not provide any empirical evidence because they do not possess it!
“Since private ownership of game was established in 1991, game populations have thrived in South Africa. Many big game species that were extremely rare made a dramatic recovery in numbers.”
National Parks support less than 500 sable antelope, 380 roan antelope and 1,000 bontebok. All are more rare than black rhino, which number 1,510 in National Parks.
Today, private ranches, reserves or farms host 15,000 sable antelope, 4,500 roan antelope and 7,000 bontebok. Private owners account for 90% of all blesbok, 87.5% of all bontebok, 97% of all sable antelope, 92% of all roan antelope, and 87% of all the black wildebeest in South Africa.”
It is time that the conservation of wild life in our countries must now be left in the hands of professional conservationists. We have a proven track record of how many of the animals have been brought back from the brink of extinction by the committed and dedicated efforts of these scientists and conservationists.
In most cases they have invested their own resources to achieve these results without any assistance from the vociferous and outspoken defenders of animal rights. They may be well meaning in their intentions but they cannot dictate or impose decisions which have got absolutely no basis in reality.
An emotional tirade about saving the Rhino through the prohibition of the sale of its horn is NOT going to save the Rhino.
We have the responsibility to act in accordance with the dictates of our own moral and ethical standards which has been borne out by the success of our efforts.
Saving the Rhino will happen, they will continue to roam the vast plains of the African continent because we as Africans have taken the decision to save our heritage from marauding poachers.
In conclusion, there are several reasons why we should all advocate for the legalization of trade in Rhino Horn under strict supervision of our governments. One of these is that it will alleviate poverty and be a big bonus for our people.
When communities are taught to breed Rhino “for regular horn sales, poaching incidents would drop dramatically. These communities would protect their livelihood with their lives.”
It is part of our responsibility as leaders to promote “community based natural resource management” and begin to empower our people to manage their own lives through harnessing and mobilising the natural resources available to them, in doing so, we shall have embarked on the highway to success.
This is a transcript of the talk delivered by Mr Tebogo Mogashoa at the Rhino Survival function at the Pretoria Country Club, 20 February 2019
Theme “Legal Trade for Rhino Survival – Building A Global Alliance
Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs of the Kingdom of Eswatini, Mr Moses Vilakati
The Honorable Minister of Environment & Tourism of Namibia, Mr Pohamba Shifeta.
Officials and members of the Big Game Parks under the leadership of Ted Reilly
Officials from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs
Members of Local and International media