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CITES better that we know or not?

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I recently took part in a fantastic online chat in Club House that was focused on whether Rhino de-horning was a benefit to the species or not. Arranged by the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation it had a team of experts who had first hand experience and a wealth of knowledge in this and many other areas.

I’m not going to recount that particular discussion in this blog, but wanted to throw an interesting questions out to you that occurred to me due to one comment made in the “room”. I also don’t think I could give it justice because of the huge amount of qualified commentary and discussion there.

There are many facets to the conservation movement. Many of which are driven by numbers. Numbers that indicate the rarity of a species, and the speed of its declined or recovery. These numbers, essentially how many left in the wild, drive initiatives, donations, even marketing dollars. They give the centre stage to critically endangered animals and act as a warning of impending declines or more rarely champion successes.

While not always 100% accurate (you can’t ask all the Cheetahs to line up for a census count!), they are the closest we have to quantifying what humans have done, either through poaching or removing habitat (to name a couple of well known examples).

But, and this was a real “come to your favourite deity” moment for me. It’s also one of those, now its been said its so obvious statements.

Does identifying the animals rarity so publicly drive up the black market price of the animal?

There is certainly evidence to support this. You only have to look at what poachers will do to get Rhino horn even after the Rhino has been de-horned.

Should the numbers of Rhino and other critically endangered species be a number that is not shared outside the professionals who need the information for conservation? What would this do to the public facing side of charity conservation that uses these numbers to drive home the impact of humans, while moving members of the public to donate or change their habits to help reverse these situations?

Organised crime goes to unbelievable steps to get what they want. They will spend money to make multiples of that spend and don’t have the confines of the law to stop them. If they can pay off an individual within a government or organisation to acquired information they can and will. If they can drive the price up of an animals horn (which I should remind you is simply keratin, the same thing as finger nails), by creating a myth about virility, or that it cures cancer, they do and have done.

Coming back to the original question about making the numbers available or not. Personally I feel the problem is so much bigger than this. I wont recount the comments verbatim, but I feel what was said was on the nail, and there needs to be harder discussions about the insidious way that Organised crime gets their way in large governmental bodies and organisations.

It’s not a numbers game…



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