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What beef does CITES have with Rwanda?

Prof. Wolfgang H. Thome, Ph.D., eTN Africa Correspondent  Jan 24, 2016

The latest CITES list of countries with supposedly poor legislation to combat poaching, which inexplicably includes Rwanda, has promptly raised anger in the "Land of a Thousand Hills."

A regular commentator shot off a mail on condition of not being named and said: "ow can CITES, an organization under huge pressure for their failure to reign in the ivory consumers, even dare to put Rwanda on the same list with some other countries? The list does not show South Africa. It seems that CITES is only looking at the legislative element? If South Africa for instance is not listed, CITES has concluded that their legislation is ok. But the reality on the ground is that with all that legislation they lost a couple of thousand rhinos to poaching over the past few years. Rwanda’s conservation record in contrast is outstanding.

"We protect our mountain gorillas second to none despite having a border with a very lawless part of Congo. Our record to protect elephant for instance in Akagera is also very good. Those past regimes not only killed our people but also allowed our wildlife to be killed. In the new Rwanda this is no longer happening, people AND wildlife are protected. I therefore challenge CITES to show where Rwanda ranks with anti poaching efforts and the game we lost in say the last five years compared to many other countries. Otherwise, let them shut up. They desperately look for specks in our eyes and forget about the splinter in their own. What is their agenda I wonder, what motives against Rwanda made them do that?"

True enough has Rwanda’s wildlife protection and conservation efforts been hailed as a global success story, something CITES seems to have either willfully ignored or else negligently overlooked. Together with the restoration of forest cover across the country – Rwanda has a target of 30 percent of the land to be under forest cover by 2020 and is well on the way to achieve this goal – has the creation of a new national park last year made waves. With now four national parks, the gorilla refuge of Volcanos National Park the best known among them, has Rwanda’s no nonsense approach towards poaching deterred the menace of industrial scale slaughter of elephant as seen in other countries across Africa.

In fact, Rwanda is presently finalizing the translocation of rhinos to the Akagera National Park, which is managed under a joint venture by African Parks. There will this threatened species no doubt enjoy much better protection compared to for instance South Africa, where last year once again nearly 1.200 were killed for their horn.

What beef does CITES have with Rwanda?



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