EU Tightens Restrictions on Rhino Horn Trade

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Good news from the EU!


The European Commission has announced a temporary suspension of trade in rhino horn across the EU, which now extends to “artistic” items, such as rhino horn libation cups.

According to Defra ‘s website, it is unlikely that any rhino horn export applications will be approved.

The temporary suspension of trade in ‘artistic items’ will mean nearly all future applications for the export of rhino horn will be refused. Licenses will only be granted if buyers and sellers meet stringent criteria. We do not expect the suspension to be lifted until it is successful in reducing poaching and demand.

The suspension is expected to remain in place at least until the end of 2012.

UK Environment Minister Richard Benyon welcomes the crackdown.

These magnificent animals are on the brink of extinction, suffering horrific deaths at the hands of greedy poachers. We’ve been pushing for firmer restrictions to put an end to this cruel trade in the UK, and so I am really pleased to see this important step being taken.

But of course our efforts will not stop there. We will continue to lead the way internationally to ensure the rhino has a chance of survival.

The guidance document published by the European Commission noted that during the past year, “fifty instances of theft (including 10 attempts) have been recorded by Europol in thirteen EU Member States resulting in 60 stolen specimens”.

Additionally, one-third of the thefts have been linked to a single organized crime group (OCG) whose members “regularly attend auctions and visit antiques dealers” in order to acquire rhino horn.

It is believed that these traffickers pass the items to “intermediaries who feed the Chinese and Vietnamese market”.

No applications to re-export rhino horn will be granted unless one of the following criteria is met:

  • The item is part of a genuine exchange between reputable institutions (i.e. museums).
  • The item is an heirloom moving as part of a family relocation.
  • The item is part of a bone fide research project.

It is also recommended in the European Commission’s guidance document that the export destination, and identities of both exporter and importer should be “verified and recorded”.

Before issuing an export permit under the conditions set out in this section, the Member State concerned should inform the CITES authorities of the country of destination about it and verify that they are in agreement with the importation of that specimen. The identities of the exporter and of the importer need to be verified and recorded (e.g. by keeping a copy of their identification documents).

To reduce the risk of permit forgery, “the certificate should describe the item concerned with sufficient detail so that it is clear that it can only be used for the specimen concerned and cannot be laundered for use for other specimens”.

For more information about how the antique rhino horn trade fits into the rhino crisis, check out:

One last loophole?

While these additional restrictions are most welcome, there is concern that a loophole still remains.

The following extract from CITES alert 41 (February 2012) stating that mounted hunting trophies can apparently be imported into China is referenced the document:

The head mount, shoulder mount and full body mount with the horns as a hunting trophy can be imported into China from any country of origin.

Considering that the “head mount, shoulder mount and full body mount with the horns” generally comprise the museum exhibits which have been targeted, we hope this potential loophole will be closed — which means refusing any and all rhino horn exports to China and other rhino horn consumer states.

(And speaking of mounted hunting trophies, there happens to be a China-based safari outfit — 52safari.com — that provides the opportunity for Chinese hunters to kill a rhinoceros for US $100,000. A lioness costs $15,000 and a male lion is $50,000. Chinese animal activists are outraged. See Beijing Shots for more.)


Image: © iStockphoto.com

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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