The problem that stockpiles of ivory and rhinoceros horn pose for the conservation of these species is one not new to me. There is definite evidence that poachers and holders of rhinoceros horn are banking upon the extinction of both the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) and the Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), as once these species are completely extinct, their horn is a completely non-renewable resource like ores of antimony, mercury or lead. With no new supplies, the already-high price of rhinoceros horn, especially that of the Sumatran species, would rise further – it’s currently around $75 per gram but who knows what it could rise to once the species is confirmed “extinct”?
In this context, it is a great advance to demand the sale of stockpiles of ivory as soon as they are found – though because elephants are less severely endangered than the Black, Javan or Sumatran Rhinoceroses the gain is certainly less. This demand – although it contradicts CITES regulations upon trade in endangered species – has been made by South Africa’s Southern Times in an article ‘CITES Must Allow Once-Off Ivory Sales’. It is clear to me that sales of ivory stockpiles – if captured – would be a very good and efficient means of providing reasonable protection for endangered wildlife in these poor Tropical and Unenriched nations.
The most crucial thing, though, especially for Asian nations where dense populations provide incentives to clear more land, is to actually do something to remove rhinoceros horn stockpiles, as was done by poor Mozambique of all countries last July. This is not thought of no doubt because the stockpiles of Javan and Sumatran rhinoceros horn – whose removal and sale would no doubt reduce the incentive to bank upon extinction of these animals – are in nations far removed from where these rhinoceroses live. Thus, it would be very difficult for those nations – chiefly Vietnam and Taiwan – who hold stockpiles of Javan and Sumatran rhinoceros horn to given them up to Indonesia to pay for urgently overdue reserves and policing to protect the tiny number of remaining individuals of these species.
Moreover, politicians in Southeast and East Asia possess absolutely no interest in preserving these species – it is known that some of them, at least in Vietnam, involve themselves heavily with the poaching and habitat that saw the Javan Rhinoceros go extinct in Vietnam a few years ago. In this sense, they are even worse than in Africa where there is simple negligence and the tourist trade offers some demand to preserve rhinoceroses. Just like with Australian greenhouse gas emissions, we are faced with a barrier between needed policy changes, vested interests standing dictatorially against them, and a very short timeline for utterly radical changes.
The hope is that people might appreciate that, even if contrary to CITES dictates, cleaning out and selling stockpiles could be a remarkable positive step if the money be wisely used.