CITES Allows Swaziland to Export and Hunt Rhinos
BANGKOK A U.N. conference gave tiny Swaziland the green light on Tuesday to export some of its white rhinos and bring in trophy hunters occasionally to shoot the massive animals.
The decision at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok followed last week's lifting of a ban on hunting rarer black rhino in Namibia and South Africa, which was greeted with howls of protest from animal welfare lobbyists.
Swaziland's proposal was not as controversial, but it goes to the heart of some of the issues at CITES.
Swaziland has 61 white rhinos, the second largest land mammal after the elephant, and space is an issue in a small, developing country of 1 million people and rising.
"Our space is limited, and our white rhino populations are reaching ecological carrying capacity for the species," said Swazi delegate James Reilly.
Reilly said that money raised from exports of live animals or trophy hunts would be used for rhino conservation. Only one trophy hunt would be allowed every two years at most, and problem animals would be targeted.
"Our prefered option is live removal," said Reilly.
White rhinos have been hunted in South Africa legally for more than three decades. Pushed to the brink of extinction a century ago, the southern sub-species of the horned titan now numbers several thousand.
Rhinos are still targeted by poachers in Africa and Asia for their horns, which fetch high prices in the Middle East, where they are valued for dagger handles, and in East Asia where they are used in traditional medicines.
But Swaziland has not lost a rhino to poachers for 12 years, Reilly said.