Dear PROA members
Please see the attached letter I have sent to the Premier of the People’s Republic of China this morning. The letter will be translated and submitted via the correct channels to the Premier’s office.
We are currently in discussion with the Department of Environmental Affairs to get clarity on a possible trade submission at the next CITES CoP to be held in Sri Lanka next year. In addition to a legal motivation explaining how we should approach CITES, we have also prepared an economic motivation, which spells out the revenue, tax, job creation and poverty alleviation potential should we be successful in our application. (This document has been submitted for independent review by two economists and both confirm our base assumptions.)
But most important is the ability to save rhino lives through a controlled supply from the existing national stockpile and reducing poaching pressure on our national herd. I will report in more detail at a later date, but our preliminary calculations from our recent White Rhino survey show that private reserves are now home to some 7 000 animals or about 50% of the SA population.
1 November 2018
The Right Honourable Premier Li Keqiang
People’s Republic of China
Re: Legal trade in rhino horn
Dear Right Honourable Premier Li,
As the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) of South Africa, an organisation whose members own and are responsible for protecting 50% of South Africa’s rhino (some 7 000 privately owned animals), we add our voice to the growing chorus of voices calling for a regulated, legal trade in both rhino horn and ivory. We believe this is the only viable strategy to ensure the long-term survival of iconic Africa species that are currently being poached at an unsustainable rate. We congratulate your bold decision to allow for the trade in rhino horn and the legal supply to meet domestic demand.
Unlike animal rights organisations, which are largely based in the US and Europe (and have no responsibility for wildlife management), we at PROA work with rhinos on the ground every day and are witness to the atrocities that the poaching scourge has brought about. We are not driven by sentiment and politics but by economic and conservation realities.
PROA is a registered Non-Profit Company (NPC) and operates as an NGO. The association was established in 2009 due to rhino poaching on private reserves and the need to provide assistance and support to reserve owners and management. There are approximately 330 private reserves where rhinos are conserved, of which 297 are members of PROA, the only national association in existence that represents private-sector needs.
PROA is highly respected within the African rhino conservation community and represents its members in the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), the SADC Rhino Management Group (RMG), the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the Committee of Inquiry (CoI), as well as various national working groups where rhino conservation and security policies are formulated, including the South African Police Services Wildlife Crimes Priority Committees.
As rhino owners who are solely responsible for the welfare and safety of privately owned rhinos the country, we submit that:
A controlled legal trade is the best outcome for all parties, particularly Africa’s wildlife resources. The rhino is currently under severe threat – well over 100 000 rhino have been poached since the failed 1977 CITES (the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species) ban on the legal rhino-horn trade, and 23 African range states have lost all their rhino. It has been proved that trade bans do not work – the only answer is a strictly controlled, regulated international legal trade.
The People’s Republic of China has now sent a clear message that a legal trade is the solution, and that poaching will only lead to the extinction of the species. There is a very real possibility that your country will be lauded for its conservation initiatives in years to come. The long-term survival of the rhino is at stake and only a legal trade can promote this. We do not believe that eliminating demand for rhino horn will succeed – one need only look at the prohibition of alcohol in America in the 1930s. We further believe that China’s cultural heritage of rhino-horn and ivory use should be preserved.
We support legal trade in both rhino horn and ivory and reiterate our desire to cooperate with China on the goal of the sustainable conservation of African wildlife. Our members hold some 10 tons of horn in stockpiles and can be presented for trade in China and accordingly reduce the poaching of our wild populations. It must be noted that these horns are all DNA profiled by our eRHODIS system, housed at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at the University of Pretoria at Onderstepoort, which prevents the sale of horns received from crime scenes and therefore promises to facilitate a well-regulated legal trade in rhino horn.
Domestic trade in rhino horn is also now legal in South Africa and it is our hope that a trade proposal will be tabled at the next CITES CoP in 2019.
With our highest consideration,