SINGAPORE (AP) - Responding to criticisms that it was a center for illegal
trade of endangered animal species, Singapore recently banned the sale of rhinoceros
horns and rhinoceros products.
The import and export of rhinoceros products has been prohibited since 1986, when
this city-state was pressured by the United States to join CITES, the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora.
But people who already had rhinoceros horns or products were allowed to continue
selling existing stocks until Nov. 20, when the government banned all such sales
in response to a call by CITES to take stricter measures.
"The rhinoceros is one of the most endangered animals in the world. Illegal
trade, poaching and habitat destruction has hastened its decline in the wild,"
a government statement said.
CITES and other wildlife organizations "have identified market demand for its
horns as one of the main factors contributing to the continued poaching and wanton
killing of the rhinoceros," it said.
People convicted of violating the new ban can get fined up to 2,000 Singaporean dollars
(U.S. $ 1,227) and/or spend three months behind bars for selling, offering, or displaying
rhino products for sale.
Fewer than 2,000 black rhinoceros remain in Zimbabwe and other African countries-sharply
reduced from a 1970 population of 65,000-and wildlife experts say the animals are
close to extinction. Other African and Asian rhinoceros species are also endangered
because their horns are valued for traditional Asian medicines and dagger handles.
Rhinoceros horns were sold mainly in Chinese medicine shops. Flakes scraped from
the horns are sold to be cooked in a broth.
The horn of an African rhinoceros could sell for as much as U.S. $2,000 a kilo, with
some Asian horns fetching about U.S. $28,000 a kilo.
Beside the black rhinoceros, there are about 5,500 white rhinoceros in Africa, and
three varieties of Asian rhinos found in much smaller numbers in Nepal and on the
Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra.
After years of delay, Singapore signed with CITES in 1986 only after Washington imposed
a ban on the import of all fish and wildlife exports from this island republic, including
tropical aquarium fish.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said at the time it was protesting Singapore's
refusal to comply with CITES and hampering U.S. efforts to eliminate trade in endangered
species. It accused Singapore of being a major trading center in such prohibited
items as rhinoceros horns.
The ban was lifted when Singapore signed the CITES treaty.
Two wildlife protection groups petitioned the U.S. government last week to impose
similar sanctions against China, Taiwan, South Korea and Yemen for allowing illegal
import of rhino horns.
The World Wildlife Fund and the National Wildlife Federation filed the petitions
in Washington on Nov. 14 with Interior Secretary Manual Lujan.