THE lifting of a 25-year ban in the trade of rhinoceros horns and tiger bones by the Chinese government has been met by a massive backlash from conservationists, with the World Wildlife Fund saying this decision will have devastating consequences globally as it allows poachers and smugglers to hide behind the legalised trade.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s Public Relations Officer, Romeo Muyunda, said the ministry has taken note of the announcement by China to legalise the use of tiger bones and rhinoceros horns for medical research. Muyunda said even though the animal specimens may be obtained only from farms, this may encourage poaching and threaten vulnerable animal populations.
“We hope China will put measures in place to determine which specimens were acquired legally and which ones were acquired illegally. Namibia will watch this and continue to upgrade its security and intelligence for wildlife protection,” Muyunda said.
Muyunda said although the ministry is grateful that China has made effort towards combating poaching in recent years, including giving assistance to Namibia in terms of resources, the MET hopes that this move will not jeopardise those efforts.
“As long as there are monitoring and audit procedures in place, legal trade can be successful. In the case of rhino horns, for example, it can be harvested without harming the live animal and the horn regrows, making the horn a renewable resource. Controlled and well monitored legal trade will therefore not be detrimental to our conservation efforts at all, if anything, it will just add value to the long-term conservation of rhinoceros, by generating much-needed funding for conservation,” he said.
In 2017, Namibia recorded 27 rhinos poachings, compared to 60 in 2016 and 95 in 2015.