By Graham Land
South Africa’s minister for environmental affairs believes a legal, controlled trade in rhino horn is the answer to saving the country’s critically endangered rhinoceros population. This proposal is neither illogical, radical or unprecedented in my opinion. I just think it’s a bad idea.
It’s clear that desperate times require desperate measures as the death rate of rhinos in South Africa is on track to exceed the birthrate. Last year 668 rhinos were killed by poachers, while this year has already seen at least 158 deaths. Minister Edna Molewa believes that private owners “humanely” dehorning rhinos and selling their horns as a regulated product would supply the Asian demand for rhino horn products while undercutting the illegal profits of poaching.
One vocal supporter of this plan is (of course) South Africa’s largest private owner of rhinos, who has 800 – around 5% of the nation’s rhino population.
He is quoted in the Guardian:
I am very pleased with the ministers’s response and feel that it is high time that the government adopted this stance. I sincerely hope that our government makes a decision to trade in rhino horn very soon and that they take such a proposal forward vigorously and intensively. Our rhinos are rapidly running out of time and the current poaching onslaught is truly devastating. We strongly feel that legalising the trade in rhino horn is the only way to go in order to save the rhino.
– John Hume, South Africa’s biggest private rhino owner
Conservation groups are naturally opposed to legalizing the rhino horn trade, which has been banned under CITES for 30 years.
The arguments against legalization are pretty straight forward:
- First of all it would sanction the morality of “farming” a critically endangered species.
- It would also legitimize the bogus use of rhino horn as a medicine or sexual tonic, exploiting the erroneous and dangerous beliefs of those who think it might cure their cancer or help them in the bedroom, thereby perpetuating both legal and illegal markets. More....