Rhinoceros Conservation and International Law: The Role of Wildlife Treaties in Averting Megaherbivore Extinction
21:2-3 Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy, 2018, p. 146-189
45 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2018
Date Written: November 26, 2018
This review article assesses the relevance of international wildlife treaties for the conservation and sustainable use of the world’s five species of rhinoceros – white rhino (Ceratotherium simum), black rhino (Diceros bicornis), Indian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). The analysis covers global treaties like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the World Heritage Convention and the Ramsar Wetlands Convention, alongside various regional African treaties. Employing standard legal research methodology combined with relevant knowledge from the natural and social sciences, the focus of the review is both on past performance and future potential of the treaties involved. The outcomes of the analysis suggest that, despite pervasive compliance deficiencies which continue to curtail the effectiveness of the various treaties, the prospects of various rhinoceros populations may well have been (even) worse without some of these treaties. The comparative importance of the World Heritage Convention for the conservation of the three Asian rhino species is an example. The main threat to rhinoceroses – poaching driven by a demand for rhino horn in various Asian countries – is international in nature, and a substantial part of the analysis centers on the international community’s efforts to address this threat over the past four decades within the framework of CITES. A key recommendation flowing from this analysis is for CITES parties to seriously but critically explore alternatives to the current trade ban regime, including the option of a strictly controlled legal trade in rhino horn sourced from viable, sustainably managed populations.
Keywords: rhinoceros, CITES, world heritage convention, wildlife, international law, conservation, trade, rhino horn
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