Target: Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa
Goal: Don’t allow the domestic trade and exports of rhino horn.
South Africa’s government is moving forward with plans that would legalize the trade of rhino horn within the country, allowing farmers who raise rhinoceroses to sell their horns and permitting foreigners to export small numbers of horns. While the horns are intended to only come from semi-domesticated rhinos, and not from their poached wild kin, critics fear that there will be limited oversight and that the system will likely be exploited due to corruption.
Rhino horn is worth more than its weight in gold or cocaine on the black market, due to a large demand in countries where traditional Asian medicine is still practiced. Powdered white rhino horn is said to cure cancer, relieve fevers, and help improve male virility. None of this is scientifically backed up, and the horns are made entirely out of keratin, the same material as human fingernails. Even though the new proposed law states that only two horns can be exported at a time “for personal use,” there will be no way to ensure that the horns do not make it into the commercial market.
The remaining rhinoceros species are all endangered, largely thanks to the rhino horn trade. South Africa is home to 80 percent of the world’s remaining rhinoceroses, with about 20,000 surviving white rhinos living in the country. Each year, poachers slaughter thousands of the massive creatures, but there has been a slow decrease in the amount of poaching in recent years.
Save The Rhino, a conservation group dedicated to protecting the remaining wild rhinoceroses, has decried the new legislation and has said it is “financially motivated.” The law’s main backers are a small handful of rhino farmers who have stockpiled thousands of horns over many years and are hoping to finally cash in. They are the only ones who stand to benefit should this law be enacted. While farmed rhinos can be sedated and have their horns removed (which will eventually grow back), this process causes them a great deal of stress. Legalizing the trade would not help the thousands of rhinos currently living their lives trapped in captivity to serve the frivolous trade for their horns.
South Africa should not send a message that rhino horn is for sale, and must do more to protect the lives of wild rhinos and the welfare of those in captivity. Sign this petition to demand that the trade ban remain in effect.
Dear President Jacob Zuma,
As you are aware, rhinoceroses have been poached at an alarming rate for their horns. Conservationists predict that the white rhinoceroses could be extinct within 20 years if measures are not taken to ensure their protection. Proposed legislation that would lift the trade ban on rhino horns sends a worrying message that South Africa sanctions such trade, and encourages poachers who would likely exploit the regulations that would be put in place. Although the horns are intended to come solely from farmed rhinoceroses and be for “personal use” only, we are concerned that there will not be sufficient oversight, and that it will be impossible to track whether or not horns eventually make it into the commercial trade.
This law does not help rhinoceroses, either in the wild or on farms. Rhinos belong in their natural habitat, without fear of poaching or harm. We must protect these creatures against human greed and superstition. I urge you not to enact this legislation and to send a message that rhino horns are not for sale.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Karl Stromayer