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Planet Ark World Environment News CITES lifts ban on hunting black rhino

Date: 05-Oct-04
Country: THAILAND
Author: Ed Stoddard

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) adopted a Namibian proposal that will allow the southern African country an annual quota of five black rhinos for trophy hunters.

A proposal by neighbouring South Africa to allow five of the animals to be hunted each year was also passed at the two-week conference, which began on the weekend.

South Africa had asked for a quota of 10 black rhino, but reduced it to five at the start of the meeting to address the concerns of conservationists.

The proposals will be raised again during the plenary session next week but are almost certain to pass because they have overwhelming support.

"We appreciate this recognition of our conservation achievements," Malan Lindeque, the top civil servant at Namibia's Environment Ministry, told Reuters.

Africa's black rhino has been snatched from the brink of extinction and its numbers are on the rebound, but it still faces many threats, conservationists say.

"We know rhinos are still being poached for their horns and the poachers are indiscriminate, so we think this proposal sends out the wrong signal," said Jason Bell-Leask, director of the southern African branch of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Demand for rhino horn in East Asia, where it is valued for medical purposes, and in the Middle East, where it is used for dagger handles, has left a bloody trail in its wake.

Rampant poaching drove black rhino numbers down to about 2,400 in the mid-1990s from an estimated 65,000 just two decades before. Poachers typically hack off the horns and leave the hulking carcasses to rot under the African sun.

But there are about 3,600 of them - some estimates are even higher - and Namibia and South Africa say only old males who are no longer breeding would be targeted, so the impact on the populations would be negligible.

The cash raised will also be ploughed into conservation programmes. Black rhinos are expected to fetch tens of thousands of dollars apiece.
There is already limited hunting of the more numerous white rhino in southern Africa.

LEOPARDS ALSO IN HUNTERS' SIGHTS

Annual hunting quotas for leopards in Namibia and South Africa were also raised yesterday - a move sure to please big game hunters seeking the thrill of tracking big and dangerous animals.

South Africa's quota was raised to 150 from 75 and Namibia's to 250 from 100.

Rhino and leopard are two of Africa's so-called "Big 5 game animals" - which also include lion, buffalo and elephant - celebrated by American novelist Ernest Hemingway, an avid hunter.

But for many conservationists they are symbols of a vanishing wilderness where hunting for sport should be banned.

CITES is the global regulator of trade in wild plant and animal species and usually meets every two years.

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