Great Result for White Rhino Conservation In Southern Africa

21 November 2022, Panama City – Namibia and Botswana tabled a proposal (CoP19 Prop. 2) for consideration of proposals for amendment of CITES Appendices I and II, to move the Southern White Rhino from Appendix I to Appendix II with annotations:

  1. Live animals for in-situ conservation only; and
  2. Hunting trophies

“The Namibian white rhinoceros’ population is secure, we have an increasing population of white rhinoceros, the second largest population in the world after South Africa. The population does not meet the biological criteria for inclusion in Appendix I.

The proposed transfer to appendix two will not threaten the survival of the species in Namibia as the necessary control and enforcement measures are in place. And they’ve shown to be relatively successful in curbing illegal killing and illegal trade. Chairperson, as alluded to earlier we have white rhinoceros’ population with private sector in order for Namibia’s private sector to be encouraged to participate meaningfully in the conservation of the white rhinoceros, an economically conducive climate needs to be created. Namibia can encourage private sector participation in conservation as South Africa has so successfully done. The amount of habitat available to white rhinoceros and occupied by white rhinoceros can be vastly increased. We can only achieve that if we create incentives through trade in live white rhinoceros and the export of trophies without too many restrictions.

Previous conservation efforts in protected areas and other parts of the country have relied heavily on the sustainable utilization of wildlife resources. And in the past, the question of sale of different rhinoceros contributed meaningfully to the of funding conservation programs. Trade in live white rhinoceros and appendix two will not only help Namibia to create many and viable sub-populations but will also facilitate live exports to other range states. The latter has greater benefits to the white rhinoceros’ conservation within its natural range. Chairperson, we therefore call on all parties present here to support our conservation initiative in trying to contribute to the wider conservation program of this species.”

Senegal was first to object to the proposal, saying that the species is very vulnerable and only found in southern Africa. They believe that reopening trade of the species will lead to the species being exterminated in Africa. Panama agreed with Senegal, making special note of their concerns on how hunting trophies will support the livelihoods of communities.

In their statement of support, Botswana noted that rhino conservation is an expensive undertaking. “Namibia has strong controls and enforcement measures, which have been shown to be successful in curbing illegal offtake as well as illegal trade. The concerns about rhino poaching, which Senegal referred to, will be easily addressed, because there’ll be enough resources to support rhino conservation in particular anti-poaching activities, (of) which costs continue to increase. As Botswana is a range states that also spent millions supporting rhinos. And so we fully understand the demands on parties for protecting the species. The rhino interventions take resources from other development needs.”

South Africa also supported the proposal, saying “The proposal is precautionary by limiting the scope of trade to live animals for in situ conservation, as well as hunting trophies only. Extensive monitoring systems are in place and all forms of utilization and trade are subject to strict permit control. There is, furthermore, an up-to-date national management strategy. And most importantly, the proposal will promote genetic diversity and the conservation of the species will benefit by having both the Namibian and the South African populations of white rhino in Appendix two, since the species can be more effectively managed as one regional metapopulation.”

The European Union noted that the increase in the Namibian population is to a large extent due to the imports of live rhinos from South Africa and many populations remain small and fragmented in Namibia. They went on to say that the EU and its member states could only support the transfer to Appendix II for live animals for in situ conservation purpose with the clarification in the notation such transfers are only to be done to sites within the species natural and historical range in Africa. The EU does not support the transfer to Appendix II for trade in hunting trophies for precautionary reasons. Thus, they would support part A of the annotation but opposed Part B. Uganda also aligned with the EU’s position.

The United Kingdom supported the proposal but requested clarification “on the number of trophies likely to be exported annually and how the sustainability and impact of these exports will be ensured.” They also requested clarity on how the income generated from trophy hunting would be reinvested into conservation and how it will be monitored.

SUCo made an intervention when the chairperson opened the floor to observers, with WRSA CEO Richard York asking: “When will the conservation successes of range states be recognised by CITES? When will CITES celebrate and reward countries for their achievements? Surely it is a proud day for CITES when requests to down list species from Appendix I to Appendix II are made? This demonstrates the triumphant success of CITES! The success of conservation and HOPE for the Southern White Rhino.”

“The proponents have demonstrated that their proposal is based on sound scientific fact on why they meet the specific criteria of an Appendix II listing. They have demonstrated that they can, and have, curtailed illicit trade with less than 0.9% poaching thanks to strict environmental laws with hefty penalties, lengthy imprisonment for contravention, and effective enforcement. They have demonstrated that their management plans, monitoring and strict permit controls are working, with an annual population growth rate of 6.7% over a twenty-year period.”

“SUCo-SA implores this convention to make its decision based on the scientific fact in front you and the hope of expanded habitat for the Southern White Rhino. We fully support this proposal.”

Referring the matter back to the proponents for a possible amendment to the proposal, Namibia, responded to the UK’s questioning regarding the reinvestment of funds from trade especially in view of rhino on private land, saying that: “Private farmers are at the moment utilizing their own funds to conserve white rhinos on their properties. And they will continue investing millions of dollars in white rhino conservation. And that’s actually the reason why we are successful today. White rhinos under the government custody, a trust fund has been created through an Act of Parliament to ensure that funds approved from white rhino trade are invested in conservation.”

Addressing the EU’s concern regarding hunting trophies, they continued: “Namibia is not entirely satisfied that trophy hunting, which contributes significantly to conservation is not supported. Having said that, chairperson, in the absence of consensus that maybe I would like to accept the EU amendment is the way forward.”


Given that there was still no consensus on the proposal, the Chairperson put the amended proposal (with part b – hunting trophies – removed) to a vote. The proposal as amended was then passed with a two-thirds majority, with 72,81% voting yes and 27,19% voting no.

The proposal is now adopted as a recommendation to the plenary, who will make the final decision on what is adopted by the Conference of the Parties.

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