CITES Lifts Hunting Ban on Black Rhinos

As recently as the mid-1990s, there were only an estimated 2,400 black rhinos in the wild, down from a high of about 65,000 in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Conservation efforts over the past decade have increased the black rhinos numbers to an estimated 3,600 to 11,000 animals.

With the resurgence in numbers, South Africa and Namibia have been pushing to re-open very limited trophy hunting of the black rhinos, and in October the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species agreed to both country’s proposals to resume extremely limited hunting of black rhinos.

Both South African and Namibia requested annual quotas of five black rhinos. Both countries believe they will be able to sell the right to kill the small number of rhinos for tens of thousands of dollars per animal which they will be able to use to help fund their conservation efforts. Both countries say that they will restrict hunters to killing older, non-breeding males to avoid any long-term impact on the size of the black rhino herds.

Still, animal rights activists and environmentalists complained that even a very small hunt is likely to encourage potential poachers. Jason Bell-Leask of the International Fund for Animal Welfare told Reuters,

We know rhinos are still being poached for their horns and the poachers are indiscriminate, so we think this proposal sends out the wrong signal.


Limited rhino hunt allowed in SA, Namibia. Afrol News, October 4, 2004.

African nations seek to end black rhino hunting ban. Stuff (New Zealand), September 20, 2004.

Global ban on black rhino hunt is eased. Reuters, October 4, 2004.

CITES Rejects Japan's Whale Appeal

The Convention on International Trade in Endanger Species (CITES) this month rejected a request by Japan to remove minke whales from the CITES Appendix I list of threatened species in which international trade is prohibited.

Japan had filed an appeal with CITES seeking to have minke whales moved to the CITES Appending II, in which highly regulated trade of an endangered species is permitted.

In a news conference, CITES secretary general Willem Wijnstekers said that the proper place to take up whale-related issues was the International Whaling Commission and that as long as the IWC’s ban on commercial whaling remains in place, so will the Appendix I listing of whales.

Wijnstekers said,

As long as the International Whaling Commission maintains a zero-catch quota for commercial reasons in its management of minke whales, then the best way to coordinate that level of protection within CITES is by maintaining the species in appendix I.


CITES rejects Japanese call for partial end to ban on whale trade. Agence-France Presse, June 14, 2004.

Iceland Announces Plans to Resume Whaling

Iceland announced in April that it plans to renew whaling under the same pretense as Japan — i.e. that the whaling will be for research. Under the terms of the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, the International Whaling Commission allow its members to kill as many whales as it wants for research purposes.

Iceland says it plans to catch 100 minke whales, 100 fin whales, and 50 sei whales over two years, beginning sometime in 2003 or 2004.

Along with Japan, it would join Norway — which is exempt from the commercial whaling ban and never stopped commercial whaling — as the only three countries killing significant numbers of whales.

Iceland could also begin straightforward commercial whaling at any time, although it says that it will not do so until at least 2006. Iceland left the IWC in 1992, and was readmitted by just a single vote in 2002 (and even then, only because the Swedish represenative to the IWC misunderstood a procedural challenge that allowed the vote to take place). As part of its readmission, it was also allowed to lodge an objection to the 1986 moratorium which, along with Norway, renders it exempt from the moratorium.

Iceland also rejects portions of a number of conventions that deal with whales. It joined CITES in 2000, but objected to the ban on trade in the blue whale. It also objects to the listing of the Northern right whale under the Berne Convention, of which it is also a party. Both objections mean that Iceland is not bound by the terms of those conventions as they apply to those species.

Iceland has apparently worked out a deal with Japan to accept whale products from Iceland, without which there would not be a market for the number of whales Iceland is considering killing.


Iceland’s whale hunting plans arouse suspicions. Reuters, April 5, 2003.

Iceland bids to resume whaling. The BBC, April 3, 2003.

Iceland Plans to Catch Hundreds of Large Whales. Environmental News Service, April 4, 2003.

CITES Protects Whale, Basking Sharks

Just two days after rejecting a similar measure, the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species voted this week to protect whale and basking sharks. This is the first time CITES has included a shark species on its protected list.

Unlike most sharks, both whale and basking sharks are filter feeders who grow to large sizes (the whale shark can grow to more than 60 feet long) by feeding on plankton.

The population of both species have declined in recent years in part due to the practice of finning, where sharks are captured, their fins chopped off, and the animals then returned to the water where they die.

The sharks are not fully protected from such hunting, but countries that do hunt them will be required “to take the necessary steps to prove that their trade isn’t posing a detriment to the species.”


UN body protects monster-sized sharks. Michelle Pinch, CNN, November 27, 2002.