By Gavrielle Kirk-Cohen
World Rhino Day has been and gone in September, but with over 900 rhinos poached in South Africa this year alone, what is actually being done to deter rhino poaching?
The demand for rhino horn for the use of traditional medicine in Asia is leading to the near extinction of our rhinos and our government is debating various possible solutions, unsure as to what measures will actually stop the slaughter.
Various possible solutions have been tried and proposed, but as of yet nothing seems to be entirely effective, because we have now surpassed last year’s record number of rhinos poached in South Africa.
The South African government has been involved in ongoing debates about legalising the trade in rhino horn. The argument for legalising the trade is that it will enable the market to be regulated and will bring down the price for rhino horn thereby reducing the incentive to poach. However, a recent study in Vietnam, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), shows that the demand for rhino horn is actually far greater than originally assumed. Besides the regular consumers of rhino horn, there is another group of potential consumer called “intenders” who intend to buy rhino horn as soon as it becomes affordable. The demand for rhino horn is fuelled not only by its popularity in traditional Asian medicine but also because it is seen as a status symbol. The findings of this study have thus cast doubt on the feasibility of legalising the trade in rhino horn, as future demand will probably far surpass the supply of stockpiled and harvested horns.
In a letter posted on www.rhinodotcom.com, John Hume suggests that the most viable option to deter poaching is by putting some of our rhino in the custody of the communities and black emergent farmers. He feels that if game owners and breeders engage the local rural communities and teach them how to breed and look after the rhinos, it will generate an income for the communities and will encourage them to protect and guard the rhinos as it will be a part of their livelihoods. It will completely change local communities’ attitudes towards poaching and rhinos and will encourage more people to get involved in the conservation of our rhinos. Hume suggests donating 4,800 rhinos to rural communities and he believes that if the communities are able to increase the rhino population as has been done over the last 50 years, as a result of conservation efforts, then in 25 years time the communities will own 29,000. However, he says that the only way in which this model will be successful is if the trade in rhino horn is legalised and the communities can reap the rewards of selling farmed rhino horn.
Another, more controversial solution is to inject poison into the horns. More....