With one day to go before the start of CoP17, below is a reflection and comment on some of the articles and submissions I have read leading up to the CITES meeting.
While there is much in the Time Magazine article (featured on the left) to like – it is one of the best I have seen – it also misses a couple of critical points about why Viet Nam’s (illegal) trade in rhino horn hasn’t been closed down sooner.
The Vietnamese Government’s demonstrated lack of commitment to close down the demand for and the trafficking of rhino horn cannot be decoupled from the fact that a future legalised international trade has not been decisively ruled out.
Yes, Viet Nam already has a legal obligation to seek out and prosecute traffickers and consumers. And, at the same time, over the years people in Viet Nam have told me that the South African Government’s pro-trade agenda plays a key role in slowing the Vietnamese Government’s response to tackling the trade and consumption on the demand side.
Like it or not, this should not be a surprise; why would any government target its high net worth citizens, who are the primary users of rhino horn, when:
- These are the business people and entrepreneurs driving Viet Nam’s rapid economic growth and
- What they are doing could be made legal if the South African Government can keep the possibility of trade on the table.
In addition, there has been no ground swell against trade from many of the institutions CITES and world governments turn to for advice on these matters.