SOS Rhino Specials
Rhino Species
Rhino FAQ

Other News ::

Current Rhino News
Archived News
Press Releases

SOS Rhino : In the News : They Can Run, But They Can’t Hide

They Can Run, But They Can’t Hide

  CITES loosens selected restrictions on hunting black rhinos

Egypt Today
The Magazine of Egypt
November 2004

By Richard Hoath

LAST MONTH, BANGKOK, Thailand, hosted a meeting of CITES, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, an international body of which Egypt is a signatory. For the uninitiated, CITES controls the trade in rare animal and plant species and is one of the most important global conservation agreements. To my utter disgust, CITES re-opened the trade in the black rhinoceros.The black rhino has the dubious privilege of being in the Guinness Book of Records as the animal that has undergone the most rapid and catastrophic decline of any...

The black rhino is a spectacular, and spectacularly rare, animal. It weighs up to 1,800 kilograms and its tragedy is that its snout is armed with two “horns” (not actually horns at all, but rather conical masses of densely matted hair). These horns have been much in demand in the Gulf for traditional dagger handles, and in the Far East as a supposed aphrodisiac and as an ingredient, on an utterly spurious basis, in Chinese medicine.

As a result, the black rhino has been slaughtered across Africa. In the early 1960s, there were an estimated 100,000 black rhinos in sub-Saharan Africa. By 1970, the figure was down to 65,000; by 1995, there were just over 2,000 left. The black rhino has the dubious privilege of being in the Guinness Book of Records as the animal that has undergone the most rapid and catastrophic decline of any in the natural kingdom. And now, with a 98 percent decline in population in just 30 years, CITES has decided to re-open the trade in the black rhino.

It is a very limited trade. Each year, two countries, Namibia and South Africa, will be able to allow the hunting of five black rhinos each. Wealthy hunters from the US and Europe will be able to kill a black rhino for an estimated $140,000. The two countries involved argue that they have protected their rhino populations and should get some economic benefit from this, which they claim will be put back into rhino conservation.

The View

A Missed Opportunity

The Arab publishing community failed to take full advantage ...

Time to Talk Turkey

The EU needs to set aside pettiness and consider Turkey’...

I think the whole exercise is disgusting, not so much for the economic arguments put forward by Namibia and South Africa, though they are questionable, but for the depressing admission that there are still people around who get a kick out of killing big animals and the rarer the better.

To understand how pathetic this is, one has to look a little harder at CITES’ stipulations over the re-opened trade and at the state of the black rhino itself. Wealthy, privileged hunters will be allowed to shoot only elderly male black rhinos, male rhinos that are no longer capable of breeding. Black rhinos are effectively extinct now outside national parks and protected areas, including private reserves.

In 2001, I was in Kenya at Lake Nakuru. Nakuru held populations of black rhinos and white rhinos, the latter introduced from South Africa after the local extinction of the species. Nakuru was surrounded by an electric fence and patrolled by heavily armed anti-poaching units in order to protect the four-legged inhabitants. Essentially, there are no wild rhinos in Africa they exist at our whim.

John Jackson of the hunting lobby Conservation Force, talking to the BBC, stated that a mere 10 rhinos was not “biologically significant.” He went on to argue that “the special relationship a hunter has with the animal he is hunting is something no one else can know.” Explain this relationship to the animal that is being slaughtered and please explain to me the thrill of killing a geriatrically enfeebled rhino.

I, and many others, pay a monthly donation to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to support their rhino conservation program. I started doing this after seeing black rhinos in the wild in the Amboseli Park in Kenya and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Overwhelmed by the sight of them in their natural environment, I was extremely concerned about their future.

We all deserve an answer from the WWF as to why we should continue ploughing hard-earned cash into rhino preservation when rednecks can now fly in and blast the creatures off the savannah so they can have a stuffed head on their bedroom wall.

CITES is not just about rhinos, though. Certain bird species are covered under the Convention, including the large falcons such as the peregrine and the saker that are in demand from falconers, not least Gulf falconers, and, as noted above, Egypt is a signatory of this convention. All falcon species are further protected under Egyptian law, specifically under Decree 66 of 1983 and now under Law 4 of 1994.

What, then, were falcon traps doing in October on the north shore of Lake Fayoum? Not only are the target birds, the falcons, protected by international convention (at least once they are traded), but they are also protected under Egyptian law and are being trapped in a protected area. And Fayoum is promotes itself as a center for eco-tourism!

The falcon trappers use pigeons to lure their falcon targets down. The pigeon has a frame tied to its back, a bit like a rucksack frame, and is secured by a long leash to a stake to stop from it flying off. A number of nooses are attached to the frame. The falcon, seeing the pigeon, flies down and attacks it and in doing so its legs are ensnared in the nooses. Predator can become prey as some traps are baited by smaller falcons such as kestrels, hobbies or even lanners, that will bring down the larger target species to supposedly rob them of their meal.

I have to end on a positive note. Many bird species, particularly waders and waterfowl, are now arriving from northern climes to spend the winter in a relatively clement Egypt. And each year I select a particular wintering bird species I want to find. This winter I’m getting greedy and have two birds in my sights (not in the shooting sense).

The first is the jack snipe, a small, stocky, secretive skulker of damp meadows and wetlands. I’ll go down to the lake in Dahshour for that one, at least until the military kick me out.

The second is the desert warbler that winters in the wadis of southwestern Sinai. Some 12-cm long, pale buff above and white below with a striking pale iris, I’ll be looking for it not in the trees, bushes and other vegetation haunted by most warbler species, but on the wadi floor. Neither the jack snipe nor the desert warbler are particularly common, so, apart from being in the right place at the right time, I’m going to need a bit of the ultimate intangible luck.

Egypt Today "The Magazine Of Egypt" ©2004 IBA-media

Privacy Policy