Joanna Lumley has called for people to work together to save African rhinos. Getty Images
The Absolutely Fabulous star and seasoned campaigner for underdogs has revealed her dismay over plans for rhino horn to be sold on open markets.
Rhinos are teetering on the brink of oblivion because of the huge demand on illegal wildlife black markets for their horns, said to be worth £40,000 a kilo.
Poachers in Africa killed 1,342 rhinos last year but now there are fears the demand for rhino horn – mistakenly believed in the Far East as a cure for cancer – will soar.
We must stamp out the barbaric and cruel trade in rhino horn
Tomorrow marks World Rhino Day and in the countdown to next week’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species summit in South Africa, there have been calls for horn from animals that have naturally died, supplies recovered from poachers or horns harvested from live animals to be legally sold.
The proposal made by Swaziland relates to the Southern white rhinoceros, a “near threatened” species with fewer than 22,000 individuals left.
Ms Lumley’s work for the Gurkhas and support for a vast number of worthy causes has seen her hailed as one of the most successful high profile campaigners of the age.
Teaming up with Animal Defenders International to highlight the rhinos’ plight, Ms Lumley said today: “We must stamp out the barbaric and cruel trade in rhino horn.
“This iconic species should not be reduced to a commodity that can be plundered for human indulgence.
“We must work together to save the beautiful rhino from being butchered and its populations pushed ever closer to the brink.”
The actress’s dismay over the way the southern white rhino’s listing under CITES could be changed at next week’s convention was echoed by ADI president Jan Creamer.
Rhinos are being killed by poachers
“Allowing this trade in rhino horn would undermine the international and domestic bans and would complicate current enforcement efforts,” she explained.
“It is not possible to prevent illegal horns from entering the legal trade. This proposal should be rejected.”
A total of 28 leading wildlife organisations are appealing to the King of Swaziland, His Majesty Mswati III, to withdraw his country’s proposal to “legalise” rhino horn trade.
International trade in rhino horn was banned under CITES in 1977 but this has not saved the animals in recent times.
Mistaken claims in the Far East about the medicinal properties of rhino horn – it is made from keratin, the same substance as toe and finger nails – are precipitating the slaughter of these creatures at the rate of three a day.
Prince William has warned Rhinos could become extinct in his children’s lifetime
Prince Harry has also spoken against poaching
Prince William, an ardent champion of rhinos, has warned how they could become extinct in his children’s lifetime.
By removing legal protection for rhino horn and allowing its sale on global markets – regardless of its source – will only increase its demand and stimulate trade with catastrophic consequences for the animal, warn wildlife campaigners.
Teresa Telecky, Director of Wildlife at Humane Society International and who is leads HSI’s wildlife delegation at the CITES summit, said: “With poaching at such devastating levels, the future survival of rhinos in the wild is already uncertain.
“Legalising the trade in their horn could very well be enough to tip the scales towards certain extinction.
Endangered Rhinos in the wild
“We urge the King of Swaziland to withdraw this death sentence proposal, and if he doesn’t, CITES Parties should reject it.”
Warning how the demand for rhino horn could be accelerated by the proposals, Born Free Foundation’s Mark Jones said: “Talk of legal trade sends a message to consumers that it’s OK to buy rhino horn, undermining demand reduction efforts and bringing swathes of new buyers to the market.
“This market will never be satisfied by legal horn, so poaching will inevitably increase. We cannot trade our way out of this crisis. We urge the King of Swaziland to withdraw this proposal and send the world a clear message that rhino horn is not for sale.”
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