In 1992 EIA led a campaign to ban the trade of rhino horn used for traditional Chinese medicine. Taiwan was arguably the largest east-Asian market for rhinoceros horn, and horns were openly displayed in the windows of traditional pharmacies, giving the impression that buying and using rhino horn was an acceptable activity. Four days after we launched a boycott of Taiwanese goods, the Taiwan government announced a ban on domestic rhino horn trade and within months there were reports that the poaching of rhinos across Africa had decreased. Further undercover footage of one tonne of rhino horn in China – at least 330 dead rhino – prompted China to take enforcement action on domestic rhino horn trade.
Following intense pressure from the NGO community and widespread publicity, the Taiwanese authorities clamped down on rhino horn sales, While the reduction in poaching may have resulted to some extent from increased anti-poaching effort in some range States, consumer education and effective enforcement in Taiwan played a significant part in reducing the poaching pressure on rhino populations at that time.
Sadly the rhino is under siege again. In 2000, 7 rhino were poached in South Africa, the largest stronghold of rhino in the wild; in 2010, 333 were poached. So far this year, we’re looking at an average of one a day. The South Africans themselves have said they are struggling to cope – are not coping, in fact. Despite bringing in the army and the police to help, they are now recruiting more rangers. South Africa is not alone.
This issue is now back on the international agenda and generates heated debate. Of great concern is the move by the pro trade lobby to resume the commercial trade in rhino horn as a panacea to the poaching and illegal trade.
EIA does not currently have a standalone Rhino campaign, but we engage with other NGOs who are actively working on the issue, and share any intelligence we receive with the relevant authorities. That said, watch this space.