Initiating a step towards curbing the rampant poaching of rhinos, the United States has listed the southern white rhinoceros as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced this week that it will take immediate action to protect the rhinos, thereby closing the possibilities exploited by poachers and traffickers looking to cash in on the worldwide demand for rhino horn.
US is a hub for the rhino horn trade, and products often transit here en route to South East Asia.
The practice of traffickers mislabeling the horns of other protected rhino species as coming from the white rhino so as to avoid restrictions on sale and transport is prevalent here.
Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell said the action will protect the southern white rhino as a threatened species under the ESA “similarity of appearance” provisions and will strengthen international law enforcement efforts designed to crack down on what is being called a “poaching crisis.”
“As both a transit point and consumer destination for illegal rhino horn products, the United States plays a vital role in curbing poaching and wildlife trafficking,” Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement.
With the initiative, the FWS is exploring other regulatory and policy options in an effort to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of poachers and traffickers.
Of the five rhino species currently found in the wild, four are fully protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The four species of rhinos are: Javan, black, Sumatran, and Indian. The southern white rhino is the fifth and final addition.
Between 2002 and 2012, Americans imported 116 horn carvings, 206 horn pieces, 63 horns and 688 hunting trophies (including the head and horns of a rhino), according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.