South Africa is home to about 75% of the world’s rhino population. Poaching continues to be a major problem in South Africa. According to South African government figures released, the number of rhino poached in 2016 alone was a scary figure, sitting at over 1,000 mutilated and killed within South African borders. This is clearly a major problem for South Africa.
Poaching syndicates have demonstrated they have excellent financial backing, availability to information and access to personnel willing to carry out poaching operations, which carry high risk for high reward. They are willing to go to great lengths to get their prize and, all too often, this comes at the expense of rhinos losing their lives in quick, inhumane removals of their horns. By now we have all seen the graphic images of rhino been mutilated for horn. As South Africans, we say it is time for this to come to an end.
Currently, one of the obstacles being faced is the value of horn on the black market. And propping up this inflated valuation is the lack of availability on the open market, a problem which John Hume has dedicated himself towards rectifying through tireless campaigning with the public and petitioning to government to make this resource openly available.
What are the benefits of legalising the trade of rhino horn within South Africa?
Now that the ban of rhino horn trade in South Africa has been lifted, we believe that the legalisation of the trade in horns will provide the following benefits:
- Increase the rhino population in the country, especially now that rhino breeders can use the funds from trading the horns to invest in breeding and protecting the species.
- Promote legal trade, as consumers can get a hold of horn in a controlled and legal way.
- Hamper the black market. Even if we attempt to get rid of as many rhino poachers as possible, there remains a never-ending stream of those willing to kill rhinos for illegal trade. By meeting the demand,there will be less opportunity for poachers to illegally trade their wares.
- Provide an alternative innovative, conservation-based solution to the crisis at hand. Heavier consequences have been placed on poachers and illegal traders; however, these efforts have definitely not deterred the killing of rhino.
- Trading rhino horn is a lucrative business. Breeders can humanely trim the horns, which grow back.
Who are slaughtering the rhino?
Currently, there are three sections of our community, who are slaughtering the rhino:
The first being rhino owners who get legal permits to kill the rhino and sell it to buyers. The buyers then get permits to export the horn legally. The second, also rhino owners, don’t bother with all the red tape accompanying the application for a permit to kill and instead contact an illegal dealer to shoot the rhino and then bury the carcass. The owner pockets the money without having to worry about vat or income tax.We never even hear about this sad incident. These two sections at least kill mainly, but not only, males. Unfortunately, some females are worth more dead than alive. The final section, being the poachers who are indiscriminate, often kill lactating mothers or pregnant females. Unfortunately, this section is growing the fastest.
The legalisation of trade would stop the first two sections of rhino killers, because rhino owners would not kill a continuous source of business.
How will domestically trading the horn in South Africa satisfy the demand in countries like China, Vietnam and Korea?
The horn has a local and international market. Whether bought by Chinese and Vietnamese expatriates, who use the horn in producing traditional Chinese medicine, or by investors, who are keeping rhino horn hoping that the international ban of rhino horn trade will be lifted, the demand for rhino horn is high and open trading of the horn has the potential of satisfying this demand to prevent rhino poaching.
How will breeding rhino in South Africa help the species?
Rhinos are easier to protect when they are on a smaller holding, like a private ranch, as opposed to large areas, like a national park. However, the costs to protect the animals are overwhelming. John Hume, for example, spends over $170 000 a month on security alone for the protection of his rhino. Plus, along with vehicle and supplementary food costs, he has a vet working 52 weeks a year to take care of his rhino and safely trim their horns. He stated that with the high costs of helicopters, soldiers and radars, he will run out of funds to protect his rhino. He has a stockpile of over 6 tons of rhino horn. Putting some of his horn on auction will help him raise the money he needs to continue to breed and protect his rhinos. John Hume is one of a few rhino breeders in South Africa, all of whom can now trade their stockpiles to fund the protection of the rhino on their ranches.
Traditional approaches and legislation have failed to adequately protect the species, and rhino have the ability to assist with the high costs of proper care and protection within themselves. Through proper management, better resource allocation and correct legislation, we can safely say we believe this is the first and right step toward saving the future of our rhino.