World Leaders Say No to Trade in Rhino Horn

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — World leaders at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) in Johannesburg today sent a strong message against legalizing the international trade of rhino horn.

International commercial trade in rhino horn is currently prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and domestic trade is prohibited in the key countries that have been identified as the major markets. But the Kingdom of Swaziland proposed lifting the 40-year-old international ban so that it could sell horn harvested from its 73 rhinos, its government stockpiles and rhino horn seized from poachers.

Poaching rates of rhinos remain high across Africa, leaving many experts concerned that some rhinoceros populations have continued to decline drastically and that four of the five species are threatened with extinction. NRDC assessed the risk of a legal, international commercial trade in rhino horn and concluded that a legitimate market would likely increase poaching and its associated security costs in both wild and farmed rhino populations everywhere.

The Conference of the Parties included all species of rhinoceroses in Appendix I of the Convention in 1977, and then the South African and Swaziland populations of the southern white rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum simum were transferred to Appendix II with an annotation in 1994 and 2004 respectively.

Following is a statement from Alexandra Kennaugh, NRDC wildlife trade policy analyst:

“Opening the international trade in rhino horn, when poaching remains a key threat, would make it more difficult for rangers, reserves, and range states to combat illegal wildlife trade.

“Legal trade masks an international black market, while reducing the social stigma that stops people from buying rhino horn now. This can incite more demand for rhino horn products, which are increasingly luxury goods, and our assessment shows that the supply of rhino horn in Swaziland would certainly not satisfy even the current market.”





The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


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