"...despite the pro-trade hype, none of these trade mechanisms has succeeded in protecting endangered species..."
Some private rhino owners are calling for the international trade ban... to be lifted so that the stockpiles of horn from rhinos who have died or been dehorned can be sold off....
The idea that legalising trade in an endangered species can help to reduce poaching and protect the animals isn't new, and it can sound persuasive until you examine the evidence.
For example, bears have been "farmed" for decades for their bile in parts of Asia. As many as 10,000 currently exist in appalling conditions on Asian bear bile farms. However, this hasn't stopped bear farmers capturing wild bears to replenish stocks, nor has it reduced demand for the bile and gall bladders from wild bears as far afield as North America.
"Wild" bile products are considered 'cleaner' and more potent than their farmed equivalent.
On the ivory front, CITES has sanctioned two 'one-off sales' of ivory from southern African stockpiles to China and Japan in recent years on the assumption that it will help control or reduce elephant poaching, but it hasn't worked. Seizures of illegal ivory have risen markedly since the last legal 'one-off sale' took place in 2008, with at least 30 tonnes seized in 2011 alone, representing around 3,000 dead elephants. This is probably only 10% to 20% of the total illegal trade. Elephant massacres continue, with hundreds killed in parts of Central and West Africa earlier this year, threatening the survival of whole elephant populations.
Tigers have fared no better. China has a scheme for registering, labelling and selling the skins from tigers who have died on tiger farms. In spite of a domestic and international ban on the trade in tiger parts, particularly bones, China still allows tiger farmers to breed tigers and store the carcases of those who have died. Meanwhile, wild tigers remain on the brink of extinction with as few as 3,000 remaining in the wild whilst three times that number are estimated to be languishing on Chinese tiger farms.