25 Nov 2022.
In a major hurdle to Africa’s rhino conservation efforts, CITES COP19 has recently accepted the proposal to downgrade the status of southern white rhinos from Appendix I to Appendix II.
Why was the white rhino’s conservation status downgraded?
- A proposal by Namibia and Botswana to transfer the southern white rhinos from Appendix I to Appendix II allows the trade of live animals for conservation purposes and hunting trophies only.
- Animals in Appendix II may not necessarily be on the brink of extinction but the trade of such species is regulated to protect their existence.
- This amendment is restricted to the downgrading of live animals only for in situ conservation purposes.
- This decision does not resume the international trade in rhino horn, which was proposed by Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland).
- However, the downgrading of the classification exposes these vulnerable species to the threats posed by smuggling channels in countries where there are rampant activities of illegal poaching.
- It allows white rhinos to be relocated over long distances from one country to another.
About southern white rhino
The southern white rhino is one of the two subspecies of white rhinos, with the other being the northern white rhino. It is one of the largest and heaviest animals in the world. It is among the most widespread and common subspecies of white rhinos. It is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List. Its population has dwindled by 24 per cent from 2015 to 2021. Currently, 98.5 per cent of the southern white rhino population is found in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda.
Namibia’s southern white rhino population
Namibia currently hosts some 1,237 southern white rhinos. As many as 57 white rhinos have been poached between the years 2013 and 2020 in this country. An additional 12 poaching incidents happened in 2021. Some 48 rhinos were poached in the country through August 2022, including 32 black rhinos and 16 white rhinos.