Sotheby’s ends rhino horn sales; third auctioneer to bring in global ban

Sotheby’s ends rhino horn sales; third auctioneer to bring in global ban

South China Morning Post - Culture·2018-11-24 15:33

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Sotheby's is the latest auction house to cave in to pressure to end the sale of rhino horn items. On Saturday the company announced it had withdrawn three rhino horn lots from a sale in Hong Kong later this month.

It will also stop the sale of rhino horn artefacts in the future, said Nicolas Chow, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia and the auction house’s international head and chairman, Chinese works of art, in an email to the Post.

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“Sotheby’s deplores any illegal slaughter and trading of endangered wildlife, and strongly supports conservation efforts from the global community,” the US-based auction house said.

“While the company has always strictly complied with international laws and has only ever offered verifiably historic objects with CITES licences, Sotheby’s confirmed that the three rhinoceros horn related lots … have been withdrawn from our upcoming Chinese Art sale in Hong Kong on 29 November 2018 with the consent of the consignors.”

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is an international treaty under which animal and plant species are classified according to rarity and the trade in animals, animal parts and items containing them is licensed.

The move comes after Bonhams this week cancelled its 21-lot sale of a collection of rhino horn carvings in Hong Kong that was scheduled to take place on November 27. The move followed criticism from the public and global environmental groups.

The privately owned British auction house also pledged not to sell rhino horn items in the future. Another major auction house, Christie’s already has a policy of not selling any items which include rhino horn.

WildAid Hong Kong's Alex Hofford said it was now up to Hong Kong's China Guardian and Poly Auction – the last two of Hong Kong's five big auction houses – to act responsibly and sustainably by immediately banning the sale of rhino horn items from their auctions.

Earlier this week, China Guardian Hong Kong said it sometimes offers antique rhinoceros in its Chinese ceramics and works of art auctions.

“These antique rhinoceros are all old and at least over 100 years old (prior to 1925), and we would only offer these antiques if they have existing proper authorised documentation and CITES licences,” a China Guardian spokesman said.

Under Hong Kong law, the import and re-export of rhino horn or rhino horn products that were in existence before the CITES convention came into effect in July 1975 must be supported with documentary proof, such as a certificate issued by the previous country of export.

Verifying the authenticity of rhino horn pieces requires expensive and lengthy carbon testing.

Environmental groups says the sale of rhino horn will stimulate future demand for rhino horn antiques, as well as for counterfeit rhino horn antiques (new rhino horn passed off as legal older specimens), thus contributing to the ongoing poaching and possible extinction of an endangered species.

Rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine, practitioners of which claim it has medicinal benefits ranging from boosting virility to curing cancer, despite there being no scientific evidence to back any of their claims. It is also used for carving, and is regarded as a status symbol.

Rhinoceros poaching is still at crisis levels in South Africa, which has the world’s largest population of rhinos. A total of 1,028 rhinos were illegally killed in the country in 2017, 26 fewer than in 2016 but far above the 13 killed in 2007, according to wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.

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