The Australian public was reminded of that fact last week when a rhino, a species once considered extinct, was discovered to be alive and well on the Australian mainland.
Now, after a week of intense lobbying, the government is expected to pass legislation allowing the reintroduction of rhino horns into Australia.
In an interview with The Australian newspaper, Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt told reporters that “we will soon be looking at legislation that will allow the importation of rhinos horns for domestic use,” but that he wasn’t sure if the country would get to the point of producing the horns before the end of the year.
Hunt acknowledged that the horns would be highly prized for their medicinal value, but said that he “could not rule out the possibility” that they could be exported.
“We’ll be looking very closely at whether we should be exporting horns to China, to India, to Pakistan, to Africa,” Hunt said.
In a statement to Fox News, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) described the rhino as “a critically endangered species.”
“The rhino has lost most of its range since it was first discovered in the 1960s, and the current population has only been able to survive by poaching for horns,” the IUCN said in a statement.
“The loss of the rhinoceros to poaching is an urgent global public health crisis and the rhinos population is rapidly declining in many countries.”
The rhino is now the world’s second-most-endangered mammal.
It is now listed as endangered in the ICAO’s Red List, which is considered the most comprehensive listing of threatened species.
The IUCS says that “the rhino was reintroduced in the late 1990s by the International Rhino Foundation and the International Rhino Specialist Group” but that the horn trade has continued to decline.
The International Rhino Conservation Programme (IRCP) says that rhino horn is “one of the world-leading products of the trade.”
According to the IRCP, “the market value of rhinoporn alone is estimated to be $1.3 billion annually in South Africa, with more than $700 million in North and Central America.”
According a 2014 report by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the total value of illegal wildlife trade in Asia, Africa, and Latin America has reached more than US$1 trillion since 2008.
In 2015, the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) prohibited rhino and elephant ivory trade, stating that it could “lead to the destruction of the species, as well as to the threat of extinction and loss of its natural resources.”
Hunt told Fox News that the government’s plan to reintroduce rhinos to Australia “will be part of our long-term national policy to protect this species from extinction.”
“We’re not going to stop until the horn is exported and we can produce the horn in the best way possible,” Hunt told the Fox News interviewer.
“I can’t tell you when that will be, but I do know that the public will get to know the rhine a little better and we’ll be able to have the discussion about what the best place is for the horn to be produced.”