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.

Mbeki: Complaints about Rape Rate are Racist

South African President Thabo Mbeki and South African activist Charlene Smith have been battling it out in that country’s press this month over just how serious of problem rape is in that country. Smith said that Mbeki is in denial about the true extent of the problem, while Mbeki responded that critics like Smith are racists who want to portray black Africans as savages.

The backdrop of this was an official report showing a minor drop in South Africa’s sky high rape rate. According to official South African statistics, the rape rate declined from 115.3 per 100,000 in 1994 to 113.7 per 100,000 in 2003/04.

Smith and others questioned those statistics and charged the drop is the result of “massaged” statistics. Frankly, that’s rather moot since 113.7 rapes per 100,000 population is unbelievably high. To put it in context, in 2000 the U.S. rape rate was just barely over 32 per 100,000. As a whole, South Africa has a rape rate three-and-a-half times as high as the United States. That is a mind-bogglingly high rate and does, as Smith claims, demonstrate just how crime-ridden South Africa is.

Mbeki responded with an article on the African National Congress web site saying,

She [Smith] was saying our cultures, traditions and religions as Africans inherently makes African man a potential rapist . . . [a] view which defines the African people as barbaric savages.

In fact Smith never said anything remotely like this and never mentioned race at all in her critique. instead she criticized the government for failing to take rape victims seriously, noting numerous problems with the way that rape allegations and rape victims were treated.

Mbeki seems to be using the same script here that he used to defend his atrocious policy of denying that HIV caused AIDS and refused for too long to allow pregnant women to be given anti-retroviral drugs. The script goes like this — find someone white who is making the criticism and then claim it’s all about colonial oppressors trying to disparage blacks. Who cares, after all, if black women are the major victim of South Africa’s out-of-control crime rates?

After all, what sort of government is pleased that rape rates fell from 115.3 to 113.7 per 100,000 over a 10 year period? That’s not progress, that’s dereliction of duty.


Mbeki says crime reports are racist. Mail & Guardian, October 6, 2004.

Mbeki slammed in rape race row. The BBC, October 5, 2004.

Rape has become a way of life in South Africa. Charlene Smith, Sunday Independent, September 26, 2004.

Mbeki blasts crime stats critics. Sapa, October 1, 2004.

The Developing World Needs More Condoms

At the XV International AIDS Conference in Thailand, Population Action International released a report claiming that developing nations are only receiving about 10 percent of the condoms needed to make a serious dent in the transmission of HIV.

In its 2004 update to its Condoms Count report, Population Action International estimated that the developing world needed 10 billion condoms in 2002, but aid agencies supplied only about 2.5 billion condoms.

It notes that in South Africa between 1998-2002, the number of donated condoms amounted to only 2.6 condoms per man per year (in contrast, more than 60 condoms are produced each year in the United States for each man).

PAI and others blame the United States in part for the Bush administration’s emphasis on abstinence as a solution to the AIDS crisis.


World falling short on condom provision. NewScientist.Com, July 12, 2004.

Counting Condoms: Donors Coming Up Short. Press Release, Population Action International, July 14, 2004.

Do Africans Follow Anti-HIV Drug Regimen Better Than Americans?

One of the long-standing arguments against the use of anti-retrovirals to treat the AIDS crisis in Africa goes like this: African countries like the health infrastructure to ensure that patients will consistently take anti-HIV drugs (which, of course, have a number of side effects). This will create a situation, the theory goes, where few patients take the full set of drugs and likely give rise to more virulent, drug-resistant forms of HIV.

But a survey of African patients in Botswana, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda found that, in fact, HIV patients in those countries were more likely to stick to their regimen of AIDS drugs than were Americans.

On average, the survey reported that AIDS patients in those four countries take about 90 percent of the prescribed drugs. That ranks favorably with American AIDS patients who, in similar surveys, reported taking about 70 percent of their anti-HIV drugs.

Interestingly, there is also evidence that African patients are more truthful in reporting their compliance with the anti-HIV regimen than American patients. According to the New York Times’ report of the survey results,

Moreover, doctors say, most African patients are zealous about their regimens. They are also more truthful when estimating their adherence, said Dr. David Bangsberg, a professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco who has studied compliance patterns here and abroad.

On average, he said, American patients tell their doctors that they are doing 20 percentage points better than they really are — that is, a patient who says he takes 90 percent of his pills will, when tested with unannounced home pill counts or electronic pill-bottle caps, turn out to be taking 70 percent.

A study of 29 Ugandan patients found that, on average, they estimated that they were taking 93 percent of pills and proved to be taking 91 percent.

There are a number of possible reason for the difference, including that in African nations a number of people in the AIDS patient’s extended family may be contributing to help pay for the relatively expensive drugs, and that AIDS patients in Africa have a more immediate experience with numerous fatalities from the disease given the relatively high death rate from AIDS in Africa compared to the United States.


Africans Outdo Americans in Following AIDS Therapy. Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times, September 3, 2003.

South Africa Reverses Course — Will Distributed Anti-HIV Drugs

South Africa’s cabinet met in a special session in August and decided to finally distributed anti-HIV drugs . . . after it finishes a “detailed operational plan” to handle the distribution of such drugs. The decision was announced to coincide with the conclusion of an AIDS conference in South Africa.

Currently less than 30,000 South Africans take anti-retroviral drugs, though the government’s own report suggested that close to 500,000 could benefit from the availability of the drugs.

South African AIDS activist Zakie Achmat preferred to take a cautious approach to the announcement, telling the BBC,

We will wait to see the actual operational plan before celebration. But for all of us living with HIV in South Africa, and our families, this is the first sign of hope.

This is quite a turnaround from the same government whose Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has recently taken to suggesting that rather than anti-retrovirals, what AIDS patients in South Africa need to do to boost their immune systems is consume large quantities the African sweet potato, hypoxis. The few studies of large scale consumption of hypoxis, however, suggest that if it had any effect at all it would likely be a deleterious one for people suffering from HIV.


SA activists hail AIDS drug U-turn. The BBC, August 9, 2003.

S. Africa to distribute AIDS drugs. CNN, August 8, 2003.

South Africa’s Population Continues to Grow Despite the AIDS Crisis

South Africa released its official census in July which found the population of the country managed to increase by a meager 10 percent from 1996-2001 despite the ever increasing toll that the AIDS epidemic is taking on that country. South Africa’s population rose from 40.5 million in 1996 to 44.8 million in 2001.

The census report painted a very odd economic picture for South Africa. On the one hand, the report claimed that many key measures of economic progress had improved dramatically since 1996. For example, the census claimed that 70 percent of South African homes had electricity in 2001 compared to only 58 percent in 1996. Similarly, South Africans had better access to education, clean water and other goods.

On the other hand, the census reported that South Africa’s employment rate sits at a whopping 42 percent. The government tried to explain part of that away by explaining that people in agriculture and those working outside the formal economy might have marked themselves as unemployed. Of course if South Africa’s informal economy is that big that’s a major problem in and of itself.


S. Africa grows despite AIDS. The BBC, July 9, 2003.