Why legalizing the Trade of Rhino Horn is Only Good for Their Owners

To legalize or not to legalize the trading of rhino horns to save the black rhino, white rhino from extinction in South Africa?

Photo by Andrew Cairncross

Despite the huge lobby to legalize rhino horn trade as a means to curb the poaching of endangered rhino and stop the wildlife trafficking and illegal trade, we at NIKELA remain opposed.

We are not wildlife conservationists, we do not own rhino, and we have no financial stake in whether rhino horn is traded or not. As citizens of our planet, as humans who care for wildlife and the protection of habitats and ecosystems we are fully committed to do all we can to stop the poaching and all other activities that compromise the preservation of wildlife and its environment.

So the sifting continues as organizations and individuals get off the fence and choose their side, pro or against legalizing the trade of rhino horn. Where do you stand?

No bones about it, saving the rhino from the relentless poaching (close to 300 this year to date) is no simple matter. With corruption, lack of training, apathy, limited equipment, organized crime syndicates find the rhino and other wildlife like the elephant easy targets.

Making selling rhino horn legal may seem a natural answer to some. However, they forget that wildlife traffickers have no interest in doing things legally. Why should they pay for something they can get for free? And, how can we begin to believe that a system that cannot stop the war on wildlife could possibly control and monitor the trading of rhino horn, a commodity with such a large price tag, about $30k per lb.?

Cutting off the horn of a rhino is not like sheering sheep. A sheep does not have to be tranquilized to be sheered, a rhino does. A sheep does not need its wool to assist or protect its new born, a rhino does. A sheep does not need its wool to forage for food, a rhino does. Sheep that are sheered for their wool are not wild animals, rhino are. Sheep have been farmed for eons (this is not a debate about whether this is good or bad) rhino are still classified and considered wild animals. Who or what gives us the right to farm them for their horn?

In South Africa rhino can be, and many are, privately owned. Some rhino owners are about conservation via eco-tourism or providing a safe haven for rhino. While others are about business, the farming business, betting on the future rhino horn business. Sure we can say the game ranches and game farms have contributed to the number of rhino and other wildlife species. But what about the quality of their lives? What about their natural habitat and ecosystems?

If wildlife conservation is purely about numbers then farming wildlife and trophy hunting outfits are conservationists, however, we at NIKELA join those who don’t see it this way. We are among the idealist who join the wildlife conservation biologists and others who see the big picture, who envision not only individual species, but entire ecosystems being preserved so that all (including humans) can live the way nature intended it.

In an ideal world wildlife does not come with a price tag for their horns, skin, fur or other body parts. In such a world we care enough as humans to assure them this ideal by supporting it via public funds. Privatizing wildlife, although this has quantitively saved several species, what has it done qualitatively? If we’re for the former at the expense of the latter, why not simply keep a sampling of every species in zoos?

So it appears that legalizing the rhino horn trade would only be good for the rhino owner who stands to make a big profit from cutting off and selling the horns of their rhino. Oh yes, and I forgot to mention, that it’s the stub, the part that cannot be removed when dehorning that has the most value to the poachers… so go figure!

Update: 7 dehorned rhino were killed in one day, all for their horn stub. Reported by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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7 Responses to Why legalizing the Trade of Rhino Horn is Only Good for Their Owners

  1. Andrew Cairncross May 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    And if that tragic day comes, when we no longer see Rhino in the wild, only in Zoos, myself and Nikela will have sanctuary, in terms of peace of mind. We only have to look sideways, and not within, when asking, “What happened to our Rhino?” The concept of farming cannot be disputed. We as humans, have done that successfully with numerous animals. Where is our desire and determination to see animals on the endangered list, live freely? If I had a choice, I would rather never see a Rhino again, than be subjected to seeing them in Zoos only.

  2. Wayne Bisset May 31, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    I wrote an article and added with permission Dr. Smut’ reply to the biggest private rhino owners Marketing Manager.

    • Wildlife Margrit May 31, 2013 at 6:57 am #

      Thank you so much for sharing this Wayne. Dr. Smuts’ reply is spot on.

  3. Philip Bougas June 11, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    And one day, when asked by your children or grandchildren, “What does a Rhino look like”, you would sanctimoniously say, “GOOGLE IT, I don’t have time for childish questions”. What an inspiration you are!!!!

    • Wildlife Margrit June 11, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      You are so right Philip… thanks for your comment and kind words.

  4. Gerald Thompson July 8, 2013 at 4:09 am #

    You are so Wrong in so many aspects of your article. For rhino to survive it is vital that the current scenario where the dead rhino is worth mor than a live rhino be flipped where market forces dictate that a live rhino is worth more. THIS is the single most important concept that most “conservationist” forget. Trying to prevent poaching in the current format has failed so perhaps it is time to think outside the box for a solution.

    By farming and releasing horn stockpile onto the market to drive down prices BUT retain the strict and draconian penalties so that the poached horn becomes sub-economic to the market as a whole.

    It is necessary for this to be a multi-pronged approach and includes educating and PROVING to the end user that rhino horn has no curative effect on the many maladies it is supposed to cure. The current poachers (invariably poor tribesmen) must be included in the solution.

    This should not be compared to the sale of elephant ivory from stockpiles which did not result in a reduction of poaching (if anything it has increased) for the simple reason that the concept was fataly flawed because there was not continuity of supply after the stocks ran out. That would not be the case with rhino horn as the availability will continue with farmed horn.

    There is a viable example of this working. In the 50′s-60′s there was burgeoning trade in wild crocodile pelts to satisfy the American and European market. Crocodile farming has eliminated this wild killing of the animal and the regulations requires that 4% of progeny be returned to the wild. This has resulted in an increase of the wild population to the extent that this regulation has been suspended. Despite this 1.4 million pelts were marketed last year.

    Although the croc must be killed to obtain the pelt, this should not be compared to legalising ivory as the regeneration rate of crocs is far greater than an elephant. Elephant simply take too long to generate a viable product that “farming” is not an option in the true sense. What occurred with the ivory was the sale of stocks from culling operations, poacher confiscations and natural deaths. There is no continuity of supply so WAS WRONG. Rhino regenerate horn every 18 months so there would be a continuity of product.

    • Wildlife Margrit July 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Gerald. Appreciate you taking time to do so. There are tons of seemingly logic arguments and facts as you outline, however, the bottom line remains the same… as long as wildlife remains a commodity to farm and trade we will have problems.

      I’m no biologist or conservationist, however, there are many on the front lines who see reality. I recently had opportunity to speak with one such expert. When I drove up he was preparing a trap. He had been summoned for the umpteenth time to remove a red wolf from a local game ranch. This well-to-do game farmer only wanted the exotic animals he stocked his farm with on his property. Why? Because they were the ones trophy hunters paid him royally to kill.

      Are all game ranchers the same? No idea, I truly pray not. However, far too many are only about money and not protecting ecosystems or habitats.

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