THE rhinoceros has become the world’s most endangered species, amid booming business of the animal’s horn, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Ezekiel Maige, has said.
“The rhino’s horn in the contemporary market is a very expensive commodity being sold at over USD 5000 per kilo. A single rhinoceros horn can weigh up to 4 kilograms,” he said.
Mr Maige was speaking shortly after he had attended an international roundtable discussion in Dar es Salaam on Thursday on how to prevent illegal trade in endangered species.
The meeting was hosted by him in collaboration with the visiting Swedish Minister for Trade, Dr Ewa Bjorling. The minister noted that in 1965, rhinos were found in 20 African countries but, currently, they are in only four countries, Tanzania being one of them.
He noted that the meeting, which brought together key actors in the war against poaching, aimed at coordinating efforts to prevent illegal trade in endangered species.
“The purpose was to enhance partnerships for the enforcement of national legislation and international treaties and promote global, regional and local actions aimed at preventing illegal trade in endangered species,” he said. Mr Maige noted that in 2011 alone, South Africa, which is the leading country in Africa in as far as the rhino population is concerned, has lost 448 of the animals at the hand of poachers.
“For a country like South Africa which is well advanced in matters related to security against poachers, losing 448 rhinos per annum raises an alarm that we as Tanzanians need to put more efforts,” he said. Earlier, Dr Bjorling said that she was impressed with the measures being undertaken by the government of Tanzania in dealing with poachers.
“I am impressed by the measures taken by the government here and this meeting has opened up more opportunities of collaboration in ending the illegal trade in endangered species,” she said. Commenting on the would-be reasons for the booming trade in rhino’s horns, Dr Bjorling noted that there is a belief among people with cancer that the animal’s horn can stop the progress of the illness.
“Legislation is in place and, in many countries, efforts are also supported by a formal organization and structure… what is needed now is leadership to ensure that the tools at our disposal are used in practice,” she said. Tanzania is among 175 countries in the world which have signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES), to protect endangered species and guarantee biodiversity.