In London last week, international media scrambled to cover the high-level and much anticipated international conference on illegal wildlife trade. However, there was one notable absentee, namely South Africa. The country’s absence at the conference and non-participation in the signing of the London Declaration has raised serious concerns regarding its commitment to ending the onslaught on its rhinos. And conservationists and South African taxpayers want answers.
The London Summit was hosted by the British government and led by Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary, William Hague, Prince Charles and his son William, the Duke of Cambridge. More than 40 countries and four Presidents from Africa attended. Participants, including end-user countries China, Laos, Vietnam and Nepal signed a declaration aimed at eradicating illegal trade in wildlife products. The London Declaration urges practical steps to end the illegal trade in ivory, rhino horn, tiger parts and that of other wildlife. Some very powerful people who gathered in central London have now signed this commitment, but not South Africa.
The African elephants’ plight was a key focus, with nearly 50,000 (one every 15 minutes) slaughtered each year due to demand for ivory in Asia, particularly in China. It is estimated that there are less than 400,000 elephants left in Africa. Demand for rhino horn in Vietnam and China, meanwhile, has seen 2,453 rhinos killed in South Africa over the last four years, where more than 80 percent of the world’s rhino populations live. Less than 25,000 remain worldwide and if the current poaching trends continue, both elephants and rhino in the wild will become extinct in the next 10 to 15 years.(…)
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