The January 2022 issue of Biological Conservation contains an interesting article on how anti--trade policies have created the perfect conditions for poaching of ivory and rhino horn to emerge. The full article can be found here.
Notably, one of the authors is a Senior Scientist in Conservation Biology for the South African National Biodiversity Institute -- South Africa's designated CITES Scientific Authority. This is the body that is legally mandated to advise the Minister of Environment on scientifically sound conservation policies, not an ad hoc clown show like Minister Creecy's recent High Level Panel.
The authors write that,
the current status quo might lead (especially for rhinos) to a ‘poaching pit’ from which legal trade might offer the only viable escape.
In the case of an illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn, none of the profit returns to the supply country or is invested to protect elephants and rhinos.
research reveals that consumers in Vietnam prefer wild-sourced rhino horn, harvested humanely from the least rare species, under a scenario where international trade is legalized compared to the current situation of illegal trade
In the case of rhinos, horn is a constantly growing keratin appendage that can be removed and regrown on the same animal for many years, thereby enabling legal producers to increase production substantially relative to illegal suppliers.
A legal trade is an instrument that could potentially both (i) depress scarcity-driven black-market prices that make poachernomics profitable and worth the risk (especially for rhino horn), and (ii) reduce the incentives to engage in the illegal trade by providing finance and economic incentives at relevant local levels to strengthen anti-poaching efforts (t Sas-Rolfes, 2012). Ivory and rhino horn can be sourced sustainably without needing to kill any animal.
While I would have liked to see these authors take a braver and stronger stance against the disastrously ineffective 'Demand Reduction' campaigns, this article remains an important voice in a discussion that has, to date, been tilted inappropriately towards the failed policies of the past. This article acknowledges solutions that have already shown their potential to alter the conservation landscape in favour of better protection for the animals in question.