Published: December 4, 2018
On October 29, the government of China published a notice that it was reopening domestic trade in rhino horn and tiger bones. In its notice, it stated that “rhino horns and tiger bones” must be used in “medicinal research or healing” and “can only be obtained from farmed rhinos and tigers, not including those raised in zoos.”
For animal rights groups such as Save the Rhino Foundation International and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), the initiative immediately drew opposition, the groups claiming that reopening the rhino horn trade would increase poaching.
Letters and online petitions from wildlife conservation groups have convinced two international auction houses to cancel their upcoming sales of rhino horn artifacts, according to NPR’s political reporter Vanessa Romo, who noted that both London-based Bonhams and Sotheby’s were capitulating to mounting pressure and criticism from such groups who argue the legal sale of parts of endangered species promotes illegal poaching and rampant slaughter. Bonhams’ chief executive officer Matthew Girling is quoted as saying that not only would an estimated $3.87 million worth of rhino horn items be pulled from the firm’s upcoming sale but that “In future, Bonhams will not offer artifacts made entirely or partly from rhinoceros horn in its salerooms.”
Similarly, Nicolas Chow, Sotheby’s Asia chairman told Agence-France Presse that “the company will no longer offer rhino horn artifacts in the future.” Another major auction house, Christie’s, was already on the record as not selling any items that include rhino horn or hunting trophies from endangered species.
Meanwhile, the IWMC World Conservation Trust (IWMC) has criticized the World Wildlife Fund for deliberately misrepresenting China’s proposed policy reform of its trade in domestic, captively raised tiger bones and rhino horn. When on November 12 state council executive deputy secretary-general Ding Xuedong said that the new restricted trade in tiger and rhino products “should be implemented,” the WWF, welcoming the statement as if it represented a policy retreat, said, “this move helps maintain the leadership role China has taken in tackling the illegal wildlife trade and reducing market demand.” In response, IWMC accused WWF of exaggerating the significance of a routine administrative delay before implementing an important policy decision. Said the Ivory Education Institute’s Godfrey Harris, “WWF took the delay as an indication that China was unsure of the wisdom of its new policy. The WWF and its ilk live off of the $600 million in annual donations to ‘save wildlife.’ Never mind that their way has failed for more than 40 years. They want nothing that could threaten the flow of money to succeed. We think the new Chinese way makes a ton of good sense and could be instrumental in new methods to conserve elephant populations under threat. Hence our full support for the IWMC World Conservation Trust.”
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