Rhinos are being hunted for their horns in a poaching crisis that has stretched on for more than a decade. In 2007, 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa. Seven years later, the official figure leapt to a staggering 1,215 rhinos killed in 2014. More than 9,000 rhinos have been killed since the poaching crisis began, and rhinos across Africa and Asia remain at risk from poaching due to consumer demand for their horns.
This is not the first time that poaching has pushed rhinos to the brink of extinction. In the late 20th century, rhinos were also being wiped out by poachers to meet demand from Taiwan, China, and Yemen. The international trade in rhino horn has been banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1977, and most countries have since enacted domestic bans on rhino horn trade. When Taiwan and China implemented and enforced domestic bans on rhino horn trade in the early 1990s—in part because the United States imposed or threatened sanctions under the Pelly Amendment—the poaching stopped and rhino populations stabilized and began to rebound.
Unfortunately, a new wave of demand for rhino horn has emerged from consumers mainly in Vietnam and China. Rhino horn is coveted for its purported medicinal purposes as a cure for fevers, hangovers, and cancer, and is carved into products that function as luxury status symbols. Rhinos will continue to be poached as long as the demand for their horns continues and organized criminal networks remain able to smuggle rhino horns across oceans and national borders to consumers. Inadequate enforcement in range, transit, and consumer countries, often combined with entrenched corruption, continue to undermine global efforts to safeguard rhinos in Africa and Asia.
EIA campaigns to uphold the international rhino horn trade ban and improve enforcement worldwide to protect rhinos from poaching and rhino horn trafficking. EIA utilizes a variety of scientific, economic, and social primary evidence to campaign for improved enforcement of laws that prohibit rhino horn trade and to support governments working to dismantle the organized criminal networks controlling transnational rhino horn trafficking.