WHY LEGALISING TRADE IN HORN WILL HASTEN THE DEMISE OF RHINOS

by
Dex Kotze
28 November, 2014

AKAXE2
Last week the number of South African rhinos poached for their horn since January surpassed the 2013 total of 1,004. At the time of publishing the number was 1,030. With this news more weight will be put behind the arguments in favour of legalising trade in rhino horn, a strategy that some claim will reduce demand by flooding the market with stockpiled and farmed horn. It is a solution the government appears intent on implementing despite potentially disastrous results and lack of evidence that the enormous financial benefits to the rhino owners who are campaigning for legalisation will filter down into anti-poaching efforts where they are needed most – our under-funded national parks. In this account of the situation, conservationist Dex Kotze reveals how global conservation authorities appear to be opening avenues for trade while South Africa cannot even meet 1% of the potential demand for rhino-horn – Ed.

baby-rhino
©Dex Kotze

South Africa is home to roughly 83% of the world’s rhino population and, at time of writing, has lost 3,700 rhinos since the escalation of poaching in 2008. With this year’s death toll already over a thousand, it seems likely that the total number of rhinos slaughtered for their horns in 2014 will be in excess of 1,150. An estimated 20,000 white rhinos exist today and fewer than 4,800 black rhinos survive in the wild.
Although recent comments from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) suggest that South Africa is seeing success in curbing rhino poaching, the numbers clearly contradict that. The DEA’s absence from the London Wildlife Conference earlier in 2014, and President Zuma’s failure to attend a plenary session on combating wildlife crime in Washington in August, whilst attending the US-Africa summit, strengthens opinion that the government has already adopted a stance in favour of rhino horn trade. In fact the DEA recently stated, ‘There’s very little we can do about the belief in the use of rhino horn that exists in other countries. Legalisation would be a more medium-term solution.’ But the department has not considered the potential long-term effects of such a decision.
The exponential growth of Asian economies, coupled with the proliferation of China’s presence on the African continent (China-Africa trade reached $198 billion in 2012) may be a component of the government’s obeisance to China. But a species on the brink of catastrophe can ill afford miscalculated decisions and hidden agendas.

mother-and-calf-rhino-dex-kotze
©Dex Kotze

South Africa needs a two third majority vote of all 180 CITES members to legalise trade

By their own account, South Africa’s government intends to apply for legalised trade in horn when it hosts the next conference of the parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016. Legalised trade can only be approved if two thirds of all CITES members agree, and it is doubtful that majority will be obtained. But even if a two-thirds majority agrees, it will take more than six years to create the necessary structures to facilitate legalised trade. At the current rate of poaching we could lose another 6,000 to 7,000 rhinos during that period, so one has to question the wisdom and motivation of this strategy from a conservation perspective.

South Africa is too corrupt to manage trade in rhino horn

South Africa’s poor record of governance and corruption at the highest level under President Zuma is a major obstacle for legalised trade to work. Stockpiles of rhino horn worth millions have already been stolen from government offices where safe custody, security alarms and electric fences were blatantly absent.
The government and pro-trade lobby’s concept of a “transparent” central selling organisation (CSO) regulating rhino horn trade is a pipe dream that could never work. Motivations using comparisons to the CSO of the global diamond industry are naïvely ironic. Illicit diamond trading continues throughout the world, blood diamonds still enter the market, and criminal syndicates in South Africa are targeting jewellery stores on a weekly basis – indicating a healthy black market for diamonds. If the imposition of controls by the massively-resourced diamond industry has not curbed illegal activity, why would anybody think that this system would work with regard to rhino horn?
In addition CITES has proved to be totally ineffectual in controlling illegal trade in wildlife, despite ongoing efforts and the imposition of controls, again calling into question the efficacy of the proposed model.

rhino-grouping-2-dex-kotze
©Dex Kotze

South Africa could not even hope to meet demand

Perhaps the greatest concern would be South Africa’s inability to meet demand if rhino horn trade is legalised. By conservative calculations, the shortfall would be over 365 tons a year. Proponents of trade conveniently ignore the dynamics of China’s gargantuan population, and Asia’s newfound conspicuous consumption and desire for status and prestige. Legalising rhino horn has the potential to create a demand that far outweighs supply. A simple extrapolation of known facts about the markets that are currently creating the demand for rhino horn creates more alarming questions than answers:
There are about 8,000 UHNWIs (Ultra High Net Worth Individuals – those with wealth in excess of US$30 million) in China today, a figure that is expected to grow to 15,000 in the next eight years (Correction of previous figure which mistakenly read 8,000 US Dollar billionaires – Ed). By 2022 China will have more US Dollar billionaires than the UK, France, Switzerland and Russia combined. China has roughly 120 million affluent people. By 2020 this group will grow to 280 million, their spending power growing fivefold to $3.1 trillion, equal to 35% of China’s total consumption. Presently there are 250 million middle class consumers in China. By 2022 China’s middle class will swell to 630 million generating just under half of total Chinese private consumption.

unnamed
rhino-baby-Dex-KotzeRhino-profile
©Dex Kotze
Demand would be 370 tons per annum. South Africa can yield only 3.6 tons

If just 5% of the Asian demand markets consume a mere 5 grams of rhino horn per person per annum the demand for rhino horn would amount to more than 370 tons per year. And yet, according to a study by the DEA using the known number of rhino on private land and the predicted rate of horn accumulation, “harvesting” of horn in South Africa will yield a maximum of 3.6 tons per annum, at approximately 3.5 kg per rhino every three years – not nearly sufficient in a market of such enormity. There is little chance that Kruger National Park would harvest their 8,500 rhinos for fear of losing revenue from nearly 1.5 million tourists that flock to the world-renowned park annually. This means few rhino are available to meet the demand, and the sale of South Africa’s existing 20-ton stockpile would vanish into the market immediately, putting immense pressure on available rhinos and increase the likelihood of their being poached.

 

APEC is committed to conserving wildlife resources and facilitating trade in legally harvested wildlife

In a joint ministerial statement by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) released on 8 November 2014, it was made abundantly clear that APEC is committed to “facilitate trade in legally harvested wildlife.” On 10 November, Mr. John Scanlon, the Secretary-general of CITES, released a statement saying:
‘CITES welcomes the statement made by Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministers of the APEC economies renewing their commitment to combating wildlife trafficking and to sharing information, intelligence, experiences and best practices in the region to fight illicit transnational wildlife trade, as well as recognising legal trade in certain circumstances and the need to strengthen efforts to improve the livelihoods of rural communities.’

CITES has proven ineffective in controlling illegal trade

It is inappropriate for CITES to commend APEC’s ministerial statement and deplorable that neither APEC nor CITES make any attempt to exclude rhinos and elephants from the definition of “legally harvested wildlife”. Considering CITES’ ineffectiveness in controlling illegal trade, this announcement is doubly concerning. CITES has listed 19 nations as being part of the Gang of 19, countries that are implicitly involved in illegal wildlife trafficking networks. Of the seven Asian countries listed in the Gang, five are members of APEC. CITES has had very little success in convincing members of the Gang of 19 to comply with measures to combat wildlife trafficking.

rhino-mother-and-calf-2-Dex-Kotze-
©Dex Kotze

The ivory example

One need only consider the detrimental effect of the legal sale of ivory to recognise the folly of trade legalisation. CITES approved two once–off sales of ivory in 1999 and again in 2008. At the last sale, about 106 tons of ivory was sold to Japan and China at a mere $157 per kg. Notwithstanding these stockpiles entering China legally, the poaching of African elephants continued relentlessly. Recent scientific reports have determined that 100,000 elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012. Estimates are that fewer than 400 000 elephants survive in Africa today.
In the online black market in China, raw ivory trades for up to $3,700 per kilogram and worked ivory as high as $10,700 per kilogram. In a recent report compiled by the Environmental Investigation Agency, it is claimed that officials travelling with Chinese President Xi Jinping to Tanzania in 2013 went on a buying spree of illegal ivory, causing prices of ivory in Tanzanian markets to double overnight. The ivory was loaded in diplomatic bags, immune from custom checks.

elephant

catherine-correttNot for sensitive viewers
– click to see image.
1. Remains of two elephants poached recently in Kariba, Zimbabwe. ©Saving the Wild
2. A graphic visual account of the brutal methods used by poachers to remove a rhino’s horn. ©Catherine Corrett

The domestic Chinese ivory market is the most important driver of poaching and trafficking and unless it is addressed on a global scale, elephant poaching will continue. Like ivory stockpiles, selling South Africa’s 20 tons of stockpiled horn alone would have a calamitous effect on rhinos in the wild.
South Africa’s current path seems set to leave no legacy for future generations and our policymakers are failing in their duties as guardians of our wildlife. The time has come for South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, to converse with conservationists and business leaders who oppose her department’s single-minded approach, an approach that will inspire an upsurge in demand and effectively destroy what has been achieved in terms of demand reduction.africa-geographic-logo

 

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  • Ken Watkins

    The usual load of nonsense, why do you need to publish all the tired old stories without any basis in facts?
    The only truth in your statement is that the south African government is corrupt.
    No doubt you were one of those people who encouraged the removal of the fence between Kruger and Mozambique!

    • Simon Espley

      Thanks Ken, would be interested in your version of the true facts – could you reply in more detail? Not interested in the bluster, just the facts, thanks

      • Ken Watkins

        Simon,
        I am not like you I do not bluster,
        You quote some ludicrous figures for Elephant poaching, but as usual fail to say where these reports are or who undertook them.
        Strange that the in depth Elephant count taking place throughout Africa is indicating increasing numbers, this is certainly true in Kidepo where the count revealed no poached bodies and a dramatic increase in numbers. I only know this because I was there!

        • Simon Espley

          Was hoping for facts.

          • Ken Watkins

            I was hoping you could provide me with the sources of your “facts” clearly not!
            Try Elephants without Borders, they conducted a recent count in Kenya full details were published concluding Elephant numbers had remained relatively stable.
            If you need facts try reading to Ivory’s Ghosts John Frederick Walker) wherein it is proven that the annual demand for Ivory from China and Japan could easily be provided by picking up and selling the Ivory from naturally dead Elephants, this is of course not allowed, so the shooting goes on.

          • Simon Espley

            Hzt Ken, Africa Geographic editor Anton Crone will reply to the detail of your comment. From my side though it would help if you attack less and discuss more ;-). These are tough times for conservation and we all need to find common ground, regardless of viewpoint.

          • Ken Watkins

            Simon,
            It is highly unlikely that” common ground” could be achieved as I am a firm supporter of the realistic approach taken by John Frederick Walker, you perhaps are not?

          • Simon Espley

            “shrug, walk away”

          • Ken Watkins

            Simon,
            It never ceases to amaze me how people like you can be so understanding and respectful of other peoples opinions.

          • Toto

            You are so right Kenny Watkins Simon is a gentleman,quite the opposite to you.

          • Ken Watkins

            Toto,
            Thanks for this it seems that like Simon you are a gentleman as well.
            Must be great to post all this without being able to disclose who you really are, but certainly a gentleman !
            Who are Julius and Jacob?
            As for English, I thought you did not speak it, but you never can tell.
            Why do you not tell us where you get your “expertise” from.
            I’ll bet you have never allowed a image of yours to be painted to raise funds for Rhino conservation.

          • Toto

            Which planet or rock did you crawl out from.Are you serious as to who Julius,Jacob are.You accused me of being ANC supporter,over my dead body,now Julius who the hell doesn’t know who he is.I don’t speak English?but I can write it oh my word you really need help.I don’t get my expertise from anyone you get yours from.My picture is unimportant when donating to any charity.I do donate handsomely to wildlife conservation,do you?Just for the record,put that in your pipe & smoke it old geezer I do speak and write 4 languages fluently one of them being English.You are seriously in need of a rest your brain is getting seriously confused.

          • Anton Crone

            HI Ken. The estimates the author gives are referenced according to recent documents and studies, one of which is linked in this article, the source of which is stated: Environmental Investigation Agency. We are in constant contact with Elephants Without Borders and have published two articles in that regard. Check our archive for Issue 1 and 17, or use these url’s:

            http://magazine.africageographic.com/weekly/issue-1/where-the-giants-still-roam/

            http://magazine.africageographic.com/weekly/issue-17/great-elephant-census-botswana-update/

            These reports speak positively about numbers in Tsavo, Amboseli and Botswana, but are less positive about Ethiopia, Garamba and the situation north of the Zambezi in general. It would be interesting if you had facts that contradict any of these reports.

          • Ken Watkins

            Hi Anton,
            My response seems to have disappeared, so I will try to remember what I said.
            The reports to date indicate that the claimed situation is not as dire as people make out, I can however say that the situation in Selous is bad, I know because I visit the reserve regularly!

          • Toto

            Your response seems to have disappeared?Hopefully you will disappear.

          • Nigel Miller

            Quoting a survey of one country is scarcely an accurate method of determining the continental population. The very reason Paul Allen is funding a census is to establish the complete picture. I can likewise refer to the following articles which contain quotes from the founder of EWB concerning the grave situation in Ethiopia:

            http://www.greatelephantcensus.com/blog/2014/5/16/survey-update-ethiopia-people-in-the-sanctuary
            http://conservationaction.co.za/recent-news/great-elephant-census-2014-conservationist-fears-unsustainable-rate-of-killing/

            The census is covering more than 18 countries and clearly the situation will differ between them. Let’s wait until the results are published in mid-2015 before drawing conclusions.

          • Ken Watkins

            Nigel,
            Thanks for this most useful. I wonder how many people even knew there were Elephants in Ethiopia?
            I knew from talking to Dr. Mike Koch who dis some collaring up there, he used to live in my village.

          • Toto

            Is he your doctor from Geriatrics shame.Check your spelling old geezer.

          • Ken Watkins

            Toto,

            Nice to see you refrain from attacking and abuse, I would not expect you to know who Mike Kich is, but just for you he was the chief vet in Africa for WCS (wildlife Conversation Society) the foremost Wildlife conservationist group in the world.
            Hos things in Kansas?

          • Toto

            you reap what you sow,so expect much more if you carry on with your derogatory remarks regards your uncalled for attacks on most of the people who have commented on this subject.

  • Toto

    May I as an avid wildlife lover put forward a suggestion to curb this in human practice,either injest or place deadly poisen in the horn,it should not affect the animal itself,hopefully once these people who use rhino horn start popping off they won’t buy it.Alternately dehorn the animal fit it with a prosthetic horn,making it known that all Rhinos have been dehorned.

    • Ken Watkins

      Toto,
      If you kept up to date with this subject you may know that poisioning horns does not work as the poison does not migrate throughout the horn
      As for de-horning that does not work either, this has been proven time and time again, search for the unbiased info.

      • Denise Huxham

        Ken,
        it would be far more convincing, and helpful, if you did not rage. supply information that will prove your point, don’t make it personal. Denise Huxham

        • Simon Espley

          Well said Denise, but I suspect you’re wasting your breath.

        • Ken Watkins

          Denise,
          The facts are contained in the freely available media, given that the author of this “piece” cannot reveal his sources, then I fail to see why you think I should.
          I am just a little more aware!

          • Simon Espley

            The sources are all in the feature – as clearly marked links

        • Janine Olivier Scorer

          This method does work, it has worked for us, unfortunately the DEA and SANParks of South Africa purposely went all out to discredit this method in the hopes that people would stop doing it, the reason for this is that in light of them wanting to open trade on rhino horn they did not want the Asian markets to think horn from South Africa is taineted, as they then would not be able to sell their stock piles. Unfortunate thought process as this is the one thing that can buy time for the rhino. The Asians not wanting tainted rhino horn by any ones understanding is first prize for the Rhino “is it not?” If you have any doubt about it not working go to the Rhino Rescue Projects web page and you may ask them all the questions. Their latest methods are so improved compared to when the pilot project was launched it is worth the time of day for the sake of our Rhino.

      • Toto

        Oh excuse me Ken I didn’t know I was so stupid & that you are Einstein,all I am trying to do is think of solutions not get into a debate with you regards keeping up to date,I still think poising is not a bad idea as if you drill a hole at the tip down to the base the whole horn is poisoned any which way you look at it.

        • Ken Watkins

          Toto,
          It is hardly my fault that you do not keep up, but there are so many ludicrous statements made.
          Why do you not tell the scientists conducting the research into the “poisoning” of horns about your wonderful new theory, rather than make statements on a subject you clearly know little about

          • Toto

            Ken you must hate people & life very much,seems like most others on this forum dislike you as well,if you read my first article you will see just a “SUGGESTION” so why are you attacking me, I never claimed to be an expert unlike you,your sarcasim too is lost on me I really couldn’t care less for you or your theories so old man go take a nap it’s way past your nap time.

          • Ken Watkins

            Toto,
            How kind of you to understand me so well, I am not yet at the stage where I need a nap in the afternoon as I am usually trying to stop the spread of nonsense, which is unfortunately all too commonplace nowadays

          • Toto

            The strangest thing is I don’t understand you at all,you are attacking readers all over this forum,for reasons only known to you .You seem to be craving attention,or make the rest of our comments irrelevant ,so I suggest to No make that am telling you if you are craving attention run around naked in your retirement village,that will give you the attention you seek,till you are put in a straight jacket.This case is now closed for me .

          • Ken Watkins

            Toto,
            I am glad your case is closed your comments remind me of global warming supporter or a member of the ANC

        • Lorinda Hern

          Toto, your idea is not nearly as far-fetched as Ken makes it sound. We have been working on techniques to devalue (i.e. “poison”) horns for four years now. There have been challenges and teething problems (as is to be expected with any kind of poineering work) but our latest test results (using a technique that involves drilling vertically down the length of the horn – as per your suggestion 🙂 have been tremendously encouraging, and did indeed result in much of the horn material being contaminated. Ultimately, the true measure of any poaching intervention should be results, right? In terms of results: two of the hardest-hit state owned reserves in KZN have not lost a single animal to poaching since having these procedures performed more than 12 months ago. So please keep making suggestions – it’s out-of-the-box ideas that will ultimately save the rhino (despite what you-know-who says 🙂

          • Toto

            Thank you Lorinda for acknowledging I can at least give a solution or a suggestion that may work,this idiot (you know who) likes to come across as knowing all the answers thank you forproving him wrong.He needs to come down a peg or two as well as his high horse.

          • Ken Watkins

            Toto
            I thought you had gone, shame you came back with more totally insulting comments which as usual contain nothing relevant to the discussion

          • Toto

            Oh no I thought I would just let you rant on,but Lorindas comment
            gave me new incentive to take you on,I now will not let this ride ,for in actual fact you really know sweet bloody blow all.Pea brain

          • Ken Watkins

            Lorinda,
            Would you be kind enough to tell us who you are and where you have been “working on” poison techniques. I would be interested to read your published papers on this subject.

          • Simon Espley

            Oh boy Ken, best you Google “Lorinda Hern rhino horn infusion”.

          • Ken Watkins

            Simon,

            Thanks I will take a look if load shedding allows!

          • Ken Watkins

            Simon,
            I have just done what you suggested, I can find nothing to indicate any scientific reports, so this has hardly answered my question,. why is it that I find it nit exactly surprising!
            All form and no substance indeed!

          • Andrew

            Allow me to help – you may have missed two Carte Blanche episodes where they exposed a supplier who claimed to magic potion that would poison rhino horn. Experts disagreed. Seems that studies by SAN Parks scientists on horn recovered from these rhinos showed no sign of it going further than nail varnish does into your fingernail. Seems that the supplier did not do their homework – as rhino horn is the same density as perspex – the magic stuff did do as promised. There was the benefit of the bluff though. The poachers were bluffed into feeling the horn was worthless – which worked for a while – and the rhino owners were bluffed into a false sense of security.

          • Lorinda Hern

            Which Carte Blanche insert would you suggest Ken watch, Andrew…?
            The initial witch hunt (in search of a R230 million donation we didn’t solicit nor ever received a cent of) or the follow-up insert with which they frantically tried to distance themselves from the first story (of which any
            trace has since removed from their website and social media pages)…? Either way, the ordeal was actually a blessing for RRP – before, we were hamstrung by legislation that severely hampered our research into improved horn devaluation techniques. In the wake of the broadcast(s) we were finally granted the necessary permits to take this research forward at a pace that might yet make a meaningful difference to South Africa’s beleaguered rhino population – that is and remains my only goal. You are welcome to ask any rhino owner we have ever worked with (of which Janine Scorer is one) whether they were “bluffed” or if they were at all times aware that ours was an experimental technique and willingly participated in our ongoing research – a bold step for which they
            should be commended, not condemned.

            When Dr. Chris Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant, he did so without having produced a bevy of research articles beforehand (contrary to what you seem to think, research articles are normally only churned out AFTER experiments have been conducted and concluded;
            not before) the procedure was very much “untested” (how is any technique ever supposed to graduate from “untested” to “tested” if people are lambasted for trying to test them…?) and although he almost certainly did not stumble upon the perfect method on his first attempt, he did not simply give up because the procedure supposedly “didn’t work”.

            In the same way, there is very little existing academic literature
            available on rhinos in general; even less on rhino horn composition and
            structure. Essentially, nothing we are attempting to do has ever been done
            before; we do not have the benefit of simply piggybacking on work other
            researchers have done before us – this is unchartered territory. So our work presented not only a means for us to try and do our little bit for rhino conservation, but also a valuable opportunity to contribute to the global body of knowledge on the subject (the most recent paper was produced by Yang in 2011; this scientific document directly contradicts SANParks in that it supports the notion that rhino horn can indeed absorb liquid compounds). Further, it is a myth that SANParks’ criticism of horn infusion was based on any form of laboratory testing or chemical analysis of horn samples (see: http://www.rhinorescueproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/30-August-20142.pdf). Similarly, it is a myth that the “density” of a composite material has anything at all to do with the “permeability” of that material.

            I am the first to admit I do not have all the answers, but I sure am
            working hard at trying to find them. And I make a conscious effort not to
            belittle, ridicule or judge the efforts of others that are also trying, in their own way, to combat the scourge of poaching. Because I know how hard this battle is to fight. So if anyone who is so quick to criticize the ideas of
            others has a better one (that can curb the slaughter and be implemented
            immediately) I urge you to speak up without hesitation – our rhinos are dying to hear it.

          • andrew

            Wow, did we watch the same programme. Irrespective of whether you believe it was a witch hunt or not, you are missing one vital point and that is that you sold a lemon. In layman terms its called a con. If you sell something that doesn’t work. You admitted that there is anecdotal evidence that it works – well there is factual evidence that it doesn’t. Thank goodness it was exposed – as you quite rightly say. Carte Blanche did the second episode as they realised the sensitivity of the issue about the dutch lottery money, but it still showed the reality that your product doesn’t work – no matter how much you wish it would.

          • Janine Olivier Scorer

            It is sad to
            see how people resort to nastiness.
            Lorinda is correct we are one of her clients and we contacted her at the time she did not contact us.
            They were up front with us from the start telling us that it was work in progress and it was not a sliver bullet but they and us felt it could be an added deterrent to
            assist our anti-poaching teams. We said hell go ahead we have nothing to lose at this stage.
            When we had hour rhino infused in invited the community to attend and see what was being done, they saw the poison and dye go into the horn and we placed signs all around the boarders of our reserve.
            It worked for us.
            Strangely almost straight after the first Cart Blanch insert one of our neighbouring reserves the manager and wife were attacked and they were looking for 13 horns. As mentioned by the so called Kruger “Scientist”
            on the television earlier that night. We also had two
            incursions onto our property the following week. Prior to that things were ticking along nicely. Still today
            we do not feel that we were over charged or at any stage sold a “lemon” it was a concept as a whole which as I said previously in this discussion was purposely derailed by SANParks and DEA for their own agendas.
            So I feel that it is unnecessary to attack Rhino Rescue Project and Lorinda, as honestly they are the only people who actually offered us some form of
            alternative NO ONE ELSE HAS!!!! …….

          • Toto

            You obviously are too stupid, or you don’t know how to search on google,I have thought out many more solutions since yesterday,what is your claim to fame dingbat.

          • Richard

            Surely if it was legalized ,a live Rhino would be more valuable than a dead one?

          • Rodney Genricks

            Lorinda Hern and her “Infusion” program was shown up for what it was…a scam!

          • Andrew

            I wish you well Lorna, but I don’t think you have any credibility left. You clearly sold a lemon before, and failed. I do admire your efforts, but I take exception to you marketing something that was not tested, and quite frankly did not work. I don’t get it – you all believe in trying the same thing and expecting a different result.

          • Ken Watkins

            Andrew,
            Well said quite frankly self promotion seems the likeliest answer

          • ctulpa

            It would be encouraging to see the horn tainted on all the wild and park rhinos. Leaving the only untainted horn from ranching sources. That would enhance the rhino by reducing poaching on wild and park rhinos and instead look to legal trade for their rhino horn source from ranching. Would like to see the results of these tests on horn poisoning.

      • Janine Olivier Scorer

        This method does work, it has worked for us, unfortunately the DEA and SANParks of South Africa purposely went all out to discredit this method in the hopes that people would stop doing it, the reason for this is that in light of them wanting to open trade on rhino horn they did not want the Asian markets to think horn from South Africa is taineted, as they then would not be able to sell their stock piles. Unfortunate thought process as this is the one thing that can buy time for the rhino. The Asians not wanting tainted rhino horn by any ones understanding is first prize for the Rhino “is it not?” If you have any doubt about it not working go to the Rhino Rescue Projects web page and you may ask them all the questions. Their latest methods are so improved compared to when the pilot project was launched it is worth the time of day for the sake of our Rhino.

        • Ken Watkins

          Janine,

          I am surprised you did not mention “Save the Rhino” in your list of conspirators.

          They seem to agree with me as well

          http://www.savetherhino.org/rhino_info/thorny_issues/poisoning_rhino_horns

          • Janine Olivier Scorer

            Ken I only concern myself with main players not hangers on.
            FYI Save the Rhino are pro-trade and pro-hunting – even when it comes to endangered species like rhinos. So of course they would not support an initiative that threatens future profits.

          • Caroline Mason

            Ken,
            Save The Rhino International are supporters of trophy hunting and I would not be at all surprised if they were in support of a trade in horn also.

        • Rodney Genricks

          Janine the “horn infusion” fiasco was discredited due to the deliberate lies being sold to the public. These were clearly exposed and as such the “infusion” fiasco was exposed for what it was…try telling the truth in the future it is amazing how powerful that can be!

  • Di Wilkinson

    Interesting reading, but I still believe the only way to prevent the extinction of rhino’s and elephants is to legalize the trade. Unfortunately, corruption is all over the world, some profiteers will make millions, but so what, if it preserves the animals for future generations.

    • Ken Watkins

      Di,
      Very well said, if you refer to my response to the author above you will see that I have already pointed out that there is sufficient Ivory, the same is true for farmed Rhino Horn, which also avoids the killing of any animals

  • WillemCoe

    Whether you believe in trade or prohibition, it’s hard to argue with the calculations presented in the article. Decreasing demand cannot be a bad idea. I therefore urge you to please donate to Lynn Johnson’s ‘Breaking the Brand’ campaign (please click the link below). This campaign now only has 33 days left to raise the money to place adverts in Vietnamese magazines. Please read about the project. I won’t repeat the justification here. If, having read about the project, you agree that these rich young men are impressionable, and that we can bring the demand / poaching rate down to levels of at least two years ago (or beyond), then please donate and encourage others to match your donation. For a week I have been trying to encourage people to donate but I have failed utterly, except in the case of two good friends. Yes, we are the only three to have donated in 12 days! My idea is to convince three people to donate, and then ask each of these to do the same and so on. You needn’t feel hopeless about the plight of the rhino because this is at least one course of action that you CAN take. I really believe that this will have an effect. It’s not as if we’re talking about the whole of China. We’re talking about a class of Vietnamese people to whom we have a direct communication channel. Will you donate today? https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/breaking-the-brand-lny-campaign?fb_action_ids=10204150033182748&fb_action_types=indiegogo%3Acontribute

    • Ken Watkins

      Hi Willem,
      I find it slightly ironic that you demand an end to Rhino horn use by Vietnam.
      Maybe if the Vietnamese Rhino had not been eliminated by the use of Napalm and Agent Orange by the US then they might have some of their own to supply their cravings!

  • Tracey R

    An interesting site called “Breaking the brand” is showing how education can potentially help efforts by reducing the demand for rhino horn – according to their visitor stats, this seems to be of great interest to people in Vietnam, who are concerned that rhino horn is being poisoned & they’re not informed. http://breakingthebrand.org/

    Regardless of whether horn infusions go right through the horn, or are more localised, which rhino-horn consumer would like to play Russian roulette & potentially get some of the poison? So I think the threat of this poison is a good thing…

    I attended a very interesting talk by Julian Rademeyer, when he was presented with the Marjan-Marsh Award in London earlier this month; his book “Killing for profit” shows how corruption at the highest levels has been going on in SA / southern Africa for decades – so much money is directed at anti-poaching, but with the financial incentives of demend, there will always be poor people willing to risk their lives for financial gain (to support their families, for example) and smugglers with the money & power to throw more money at poachers – but by breaking the DEMAND cycle, we stand a better chance of actually having some rhinos still left alive in the wild by the end of the next decade… so EDUCATION is key – getting the consumers to realise that the stuff is useless in a medicinal sense, highlighting the risk of poisoning (even exaggerating it – to achieve the right outcome).

    After this conclusion, which is supported by many experts, it would devalue every effort if the trade in rhino horn were to be legalised!

    Is there a petition we can sign to encourage CITES members to NOT support South Africa in this endeavour?

    • Di M

      Yes there is a petition site, called avaaz. It’s reliable and trusted. You could get it going, it’s free.

    • Andrew

      Oh look an opportunity to ask for funds!!!

      And another petition…. sigh!

      • LaraRobertson

        I have yet to see a single rhino saved by the signing of a petition

  • Andrew

    So we may agree that SA is corrupt – then its best that the trade remain illegal then, as it will play into their hands. Then we agree CITES has been ineffectual with the trade ban – well thats why its ideal breeding grounds for poaching. Supply and demand are equal and brought into balance by price. We are able to supply the current demand at the current price. SA can supply 6 tons a year. The similarities between rhino horn and diamond trade are closer that the similarities to the once off action of ivory. Dex should know the diamond trade well and how to satisfy a demand for luxury goods as he is involved in that trade. No-one for a moment is suggesting that we simply legalise trade and thats that. What we are doing now has to continue and will not stop. In fact it will provide much needed funds to increase rhino security. Quite frankly the decision on whether to make trade legal or not should rest in the hands of the people who have rhino and backed with good science. Egos, and emotions will go us nowhere. We should consider that every single rhino that has died so far has been under a trade ban. Has it occurred to you that the best way to decrease the illegal demand is to allow for a legitimate supply?

    • Ken Watkins

      Andrew,
      Well said, legal trade is the only “sensible” solution!

    • “Thailand’s ivory market is the largest unregulated market in the world. The trade in Thailand is fuelled by ivory from poached African elephant’s tusks that are smuggled into the country.
      Current Thai law allows for ivory from domesticated Thai elephants to be sold legally. As a result, large quantities of African ivory can be laundered through Thai shops. Only by closing the domestic trade in ivory can Thailand help eliminate the threat to African elephants.”

  • Andrew

    One more point – no-one is suggesting that SA govt will manage the legal trade. In fact the general idea is that an independent trade regulating mechanism be set up.. Why don’t some NGO’s jump up and volunteer for that job?

    • Janine Olivier Scorer

      SA Government can’t even effectively control and police things in a market where trade is illegal, at the moment all and any trade in horn is illegal, so what-ever is found is currently a crime, so you tell me how are the police going to know the difference between legal and illegal horn once trade is opened. If you think the kingpins and poachers are getting away with it now, wait till trade is legal it will be a blood bath for the rhino.
      Supply and demand is very important to make trade work and unfortunately we will not be able to satisfy the demand, never mind that the black market will thrive in an open trade situation.
      I just cant see trade working I would be in the front of the que to vote for it if I thought it would.

      • andrew

        What you are doing is suggesting that at the moment we are in a zero risk position and legalising trade will increase the risk to the rhinos. The fact is that in the situation we are in now we are dealing with clandestine invisible enemy. How can it possibly get worse if you allow controlled trade? It is as bad as it can get, and if we continue to believe that some ignorant movie stars will save our planet we may as well join them in disney land. We need scientific pragmatic solutions. We need to trust the specialist group that the govt has appointed – who consist of highly qualified scientists, economists and rhino custodians. We are led to believe Bots has done a great job with the 100 rhino that they have. Most are intensively protected in Karma Sanctuary and some are on chiefs island. Its important to note that rhinos have gone extinct in Bots before, and what they have now were donated from SA. Chap – it is a blood bath for rhino now, and if we can’t supply a legal alternative to the trade, the bloodbath will continue. I commend the people who are trying to protect the rhinos, but as long as the only supply remains illegal – that is the only way horn will reach the market – until the last rhino is standing.

        • Janine Olivier Scorer

          Hell No I am definately not saying we are in zero risk geeze we own rhino, so I more so than most who are commenting here are affected and the anti poaching measures cost a fortune. What I am saying is if its bad now, its going to be seriously worse if we have legal horn floating around. Controle and policing are the issues with this and with all the corruption around I just cant see this improving an already dire situation

          • andrew

            If you own rhino you will be aware of the resounding success South Africa has achieved through Sustainable Utilisation. You are part of the example that shows how wildlife has benefited from private ownership and you will also be in the wildlife trade yourself. Success like what is seen with Roan, Sable, Bontebok etc all because they were rare and could be bought and sold have grown in number to the point where many single ranchers own more sable that Kruger park. The system of sustainable utilisation should not be a foreign concept to you – you will have seen what happened to crocodiles and ostriches as a result of trade. It seems somewhat contradictory that you should feel that lifting the trade in rhino horn will do the opposite as to what happened to so many years ago when the moved White rhino to appendix II and to what you see happen and work every day. Why on earth would a legal trade scare you. It was Ian Player who pioneered sustainable utilisation and as a result saved the rhino and many other animals along the same line. Your fears are unfounded and unrealistic, and unnatural for someone who practices sustainable utilisation.

          • Janine Olivier Scorer

            We have wild rhino not farmed rhino we do not trade with the rhino, there are places that are reserves who do not trade with their rhino. So yes if you are farming the above will apply. But even if every one was farming rhino you could still never meet the demand that will occur once trade is opened. That is my feeling and my opinion. So shall we agree to disagree Andrew. And thank you nice to have a discussion with some one who is not rude and personal. Enjoyed my chat with you even though we think differently.

          • andrew

            Did you buy your rhino? Did you ever sell rhino to get new genes? Did you buy any other game? did you ever sell any game? Doesn’t matter why you did it – you are part of the system. Its nothing to be ashamed of – the same system has been very good to some, and others have done it for fun. But no matter how you look at it – you need an income – so I am guessing that you have paying guests who drive around to look at your animals. Nothing wrong with it, but if the system didn’t exist – you would have no rhinos, and in fact very little wildlife would exist outside parks. Many people cannot afford to throw money down the tubes to protect their rhinos anymore, and no rhino is safe, as long as the only way to get horn is driven by criminals.

        • Ken Watkins

          Andrew,
          Another totally cogent and telling post, it males such a change to see comments from people who have full knowledge of the problem, rather than those talking themselves up!

    • Ron PARNELL

      Yes, I can really see the politicians allowing that that to work without their grubby hands all over it. Get real.

  • Ken Watkins

    Janine,
    Do you think that you should disclose that you are the wife of the author of this thread?

    How is the jewellery business?

    Riding around in your own helicopter must give you a great feeling of conservation?

    Happy days

    • Janine Olivier Scorer

      Shame Ken you bored what thumb did you suck that one out of….maybe you should do some homework about the author you will see that i am not his wife I dont even know the gentleman

      • Ken Watkins

        It seems that I may have been let down by my “snitch” sorry about that.
        Not that I really understand the “bored thumb” part?

  • Daniela

    As terrible as is i think that the best solution is to dehorned rhinos. This solution would make impossible for this generation to get horn and would permit to the future generation to grow up without this absurd and cruel habit. I belive that if 3/4 generation of rino would be dehorned after 50 years this terrible habit will be disappear

    • Janine Olivier Scorer

      They still poach de-horned rhino as the bulk of the horn is below the surface 🙁 its all too terrible and too sad for words Daniela

  • solution 1. why do we not farm rhino if its so profitable.
    solution2. we are creatures of change. shoot all the rhino. black and white and make a statement to the world no one will forget. if the poaching rates carry on as they are. this will inevitably happen anyway.
    solution 3. look after people, who in turn will look after the animals.
    solution 4. start a rhino farm in vietnam & china and let them manage their own problem

    • LaraRobertson

      Please revisit your comment as it is flawed in all it represents.. We have breeders, there are Rhino Farms Locally and Internationally. Communities are involved ..

  • WillemCoe

    Please donate and share. Time is running out i.e. they need to place the advertisements in the Vietnamese magazines before the Lunar New Year: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/breaking-the-brand-lny-campaign?fb_action_ids=10204150033182748&fb_action_types=indiegogo%3Acontribute

    • LaraRobertson

      WARNING: Not a single donation will save this species..

      • WillemCoe

        I agree with you. That’s why we’re trying to get thousands of donations.

        • LaraRobertson

          Where do you wish for the thousands of donations to end up?

          • WillemCoe

            Lara, Lynn Johnson in Australia is raising money to place advertisements in the magazines that the users read. The users are rich young men that use the horn to seal business deals. Mothers also use it to cure their children’s fever. Our world is complex. We have to acknowledge that not everyone has the same background as us. Even in South Africa, among people who are superficially similar to you and me, there are children and adults who have never been to KNP, and they will never go there. The point I’m trying to make is that we need to stop preaching to the converted and try to understand why this is happening to the rhino. Perhaps the users of rhino horn would even agree with us, if we could only get through to them. And this advertising campaign is the way to get through to them. The rhino is worth the hard fight ahead of us. It’s terribly disappointing to see how nasty these discussions can become. It’s so pointless. If we could all just pull together we might be able to do something. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/breaking-the-brand-lny-campaign?fb_action_ids=10204150033182748&fb_action_types=indiegogo%3Acontribute

          • LaraRobertson

            I have seen campaign after campaign and yet I have not seen a single rhinos life saved. I am all for educating people. However what gives us the right to try and change a culture that has existed for 1000’s of years. We need to focus on the demand. Our rhino I am sad to say are worth more DEAD than ALIVE, trade is the one thing that will ensure the rhinos life is worth more ALIVE than DEAD. Education will not do this I am sorry to say

          • WillemCoe

            Thanks Lara. You will never see a rhino’s life saved by a campaign because it is impossible to actually see that, even if it happens. Lara, the young Vietnamese businessmen have only been consuming rhino horn in this way for the last 10 years or so, since Vietnam became a capitalist society. So, unlike the Chinese, their behaviour is reversible. And Lara, you say that we must focus on demand. You are absolutely right. This is precisely what these adverts will do. They will be like anti-smoking adverts and they will cause the reader to question his behaviour and reflect on what he is doing. There is a good chance that he will change his behaviour, and the demand will decrease. The adverts will suggest to the Vietnamese that the horn is tainted by poison. There is nothing that an Asian person hates more than something that is unclean. They will probably stop using it.

  • LaraRobertson

    1051+ rhino illegally traded and slaughtered this year alone, I think the ban is doing all this article fears. There is not a shred of evidence to prove that a sustainable legal trade will hasten the demise of our rhino.

  • LaraRobertson

    Ironically the photo above that states *not for sensitive viewers* should state this is what the Ban looks like, This is the face of an illegal trade. This is what you are endorsing every time you fight a legal trade in Rhino.

    • Do you have some actual facts to back up your beliefs…..?

  • Rodney Genricks

    I have just quickly scanned this and immediately 2 things spring to mind 1 flooding the market is the last thing that needs to happen 2 there has never been a demand of over two tons with the current high still not exceeding 1.4 tons. The assumptions and volumes are therefore totally incorrect and therefore his claims are fatally flawed…this type of emotional statements without the research does more harm to the rhino cause than anything else…please if you want to do something positive do the research first

    • Anton Crone

      HI Rodney. You insist on good research yet, by your own admission, you have only scanned the article. 1: The author’s motivation is that it would not be possible to flood the market due to lack of resources, and he is not advocating it. 2: The author has made calculations upon the future growth, aspirations and wealth of the rhino-horn markets which would logically drive up demand if horn sales were legalised.

      • Andrew

        If the author did his homework he would learn that there is no intention to flood the market. The intension is to supply the existing demand at a market related price to allow a legitimate channel for buyers to access the horn without having to kill the rhinos. At the same time much needed income will land in the hands of the rhino keepers as opposed to criminals. This results in a demand reduction for illegal horn. There is no doubt that some criminal activity will still take place, but at least rhino keepers will have better funds and motivation to protect their rhino. The way we are going now gives all the business to criminals.

        • Simon Espley

          The words “Flood the market” have been used extensively in the pro trade literature and at presentations I have attended.

      • Rodney Genricks

        Hi Anton
        One does not need to do much more than scan the article to see it is fatally flawe’d with limited research. At no time in history has the demand exceeded 1.5 tons and yet assumptions are made the demand will suddenly jump to exceed 3.5tons…absolute hogwash. Poachers rhino horns Ave app 1.8 kilos while harvested tons are almost double that…This alone ensure half the rhino for the similar volume. Let’s not forget the current stock pile which alone would ensure no rhino need to be de horned or poached for app 15 years to supply the market taking into consideration naturaldeaths excluding harvested horn…I personally know Dex but this is absolute stupidity and an emotional excerise in futility

        • Anton Crone

          Thanks for your response, Rodney. I urge you to take the foundation of Dex’s calculations about the future growth in markets into account: “There are about 8,000 US Dollar billionaires in China today, a figure that is expected to grow to 15,000 in the next eight years. By 2022 China will have more billionaires than the UK, France, Switzerland and Russia combined. China has roughly 120 million affluent people. By 2020 this group will grow to 280 million, their spending power growing fivefold to $3.1 trillion, equal to 35% of China’s total consumption. Presently there are 250 million middle class consumers in China. By 2022 China’s middle class will swell to 630 milliongenerating just under half of total Chinese private consumption.”

          • Rodney Genricks

            Anton most of these are not from theold school and do not necessarily believe in the myths of the past…If this was the case the usage would already have topped the 2 ton mark.Internet etc have denounced these myths and will continue to do so. One needs to supply the market in a controlled manner ensuring a relative high price while a re education program takes place.This might take 20 years while the old traditionalist pass on. Bans have never worked for anything so continued flogging of a dead horse achieves nothing….time for change.

          • Jill Robinson

            There are over 1M registered Chinese health ‘healers’ who are legally allowed to use rhino horn. The demand already exceeds supply and can only get worse.

          • Rodney Genricks

            Jill there is absolutely no scientific proof that they all use rhino horn.besides which the volumes are minute per person.. 1020 rhino horn supplied illegally is still below 1.4 tons…If the same amount was supplied legally that would equate to approximately 800 rhino that do not need to be killed which Is sustainable especially if one takes into consideration these could be supplied from horns already in stock…20 000 odd.

          • Jill Robinson

            Rodney – read my comment – these health healers are registered and allowed to sell rhino horn. Of course some of them may not use it – but they can sell it to far more users than there are sellers. No scientific proof required.

        • Dex Kotze

          Due to the demand being on the black market, it has not been quantified what it is or has been. Between 1970 and 1980 more than 5000 black rhinos were killed in Africa per year, when their numbers plummeted from 65 000 to less than 15 000. There alone are 10 consecutive years where demand surpassed 1.5 tons a year. The last 2 years have respectively seen over 1000 killed rhinos each year, another example of demand exceeding 1.5 tons with basic arithmetic. Poached rhino horn weighs more than harvested horn, as the poachers remove the entire horn right into the rhino’s skull, while harvested horn will always leave the thick portion behind. No emotion in simple mathematics.

          • Rodney Genricks

            Again Dex do the research….the drop was prior 1950-2007 (the actual nos are at best guesstimates)….the CITES ban was imposed in 1976…..now do the sums…..40 years of a continual escalation in poaching except in South Africa where this escalation in poaching only started in 2007 after South Africa began honoring the CITES ban due to world pressure. Up until then the rhino population in RSA was the only increasing herd in the World. Thanks to Dr Player and his vision of trade.
            Your remark on poached horn is also far off the mark. Poached horn vs a single harvested horn from living animals. (If one had to equate the total amount of horn harvested from a living animal than the figure needs to be multiplied by at least four, far exceeding poached horn).The figures I quoted were from killed rhino..either by means of hunting of old or excess animals on game farms vs poached. Harvesting of horn only came about recently while poached rhino is totally indiscriminate and affects both young and old. “Harvested” rhino is selective and controlled to ensure the survival of the species..

          • Dex Kotze

            No doubt the black rhinos were poached/hunted/killed prior to 1950. The fact is that well over 50 000 black rhinos were killed from the late 60’s to 1980. ( also driven by demand in the Middle East, especially Yemen who only joined CITES in 1997 and banned trade in rhino horn in 1992. Easy to find the info. Hence demand in those odd 10-12 years well over 8 or 9 tons. That contradicts your comment that demand has never exceeded 1.5 tons. Suffice to say your comments on quantum of harvesting horns are ambiguous.

          • Rodney Genricks

            no Dex…those rhino were not only poached for a period of 20 years…..this has been going on for at least a half century, in fact rhino horn was used as far back as the 16th century to make cups and handles, but the figures are blurred and no reliance can be attributed to them…especially as you name only the black rhino as the target.

            Your figures are hopeless..
            1. Your volumes per rhino do not add up
            2.Your figures between killed/hunted and poached don’t add up.
            3. Your comparisons between harvesting and poached horn don’t add up.
            4. You claim that there are 8000 billionaires in China, but this does not correspond with Forbes research that shows app 2000.
            5. Your assumption that all wealthy Chines use Rhino horn is ridiculous.
            6.The only accurate figures that have credibility are South Africa’s figures which clearly show the no has never exceeded 1.5 tons, at the very most 1.8 tons this year, but these you chose to ignore.

            What your article has shown is that the risk- reward pendulum is totally in favor of poaching due to the bans and this needs to be changed immediately.
            I stand by my statement that this is an extremely badly researched article and I am very disappointed in Africa Geo for publishing this as all their credibility has gone straight out the window.They should have at the very least, done some research themselves and now need to print a retraction, correcting this nonsense.

          • Anton Crone

            Hi Rodney,

            Thank you for pointing out the discrepancy in regards to Chinese billionaire numbers. Going back through the edits the text originally stated: “8,000 UHNWI (High Net Worth Individuals which are classified as being over the US$30 million mark)” and through the editing process the terminology was somehow mixed-up and overlooked. We have corrected it in the article with reference to the mistake.

            All the best,
            Anton

          • Rodney Genricks

            Hi Anton

            I accept and thank you that you have mitigated a fraction of the incorrect article but you have only “deflected” this without taking into consideration the multitude of other false calculations.

            Please read this article below which will
            hopefully answer a few questions that are answered by a man extremely knowledgeable and very well researched.

            HOW ROBUST ARE THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST A LEGAL TRADE IN RHINO HORN?
            DECEMBER 2014, VOLUME 12-6

            African Indaba has published several articles of Michael Eustace on rhino horn trade. Here Michael examines the arguments of the anti-trade lobby and concludes that the arguments against trade seem weak and contrived.

            “It is morally wrong to sell horn if it does not work”
            The Chinese are the main consumers and they believe, or some believe, that it works. Western medicine is skeptical and has said so. There are thousands of different remedies that are sold all over the world that have no proven effectiveness and there are lots of products sold that are actually harmful. Nobody has suggested that horn is harmful. A placebo can have a powerful beneficial effect. Killing 1,000 rhino in 2013 was clearly wrong and if the killing can be reduced by trade then the world will be a better place, regardless of whether horn works or not and any comparatively minor sensitivities around that.

            “Trade will stimulate demand”
            It may do. Some consumers may not buy horn now because it is illegal to do so. But the “Smart Trade” model of a monopoly selling to a cartel of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) hospitals will be able to adjust the price of horn so as to bring the level of demand into balance with a sustainable level of supply. Also, Smart Trade is designed to reduce the appetite speculators now have for buying horn, an appetite that is based on the prospect of the value of horn increasing because of the declining numbers of rhino. Trade should lead to less speculation in horn which will reduce poaching.

            “Trade cannot satisfy the ‘insatiable’ demand”
            Actual consumer demand is limited by high prices and is estimated at a total of 1,100 horn-sets p.a. South Africa can sustainably supply 1,300 horn-sets from stocks (400), natural deaths (400) and farmed horn (500). There are said to be a large number of “intenders” who would buy horn if the price was lower but that is the case with most products. (There is no intention in the model to reduce prices and “flood” the market with horn so as to reduce the poacher’s profit. Reducing the poacher’s profit would be good but flooding the market would be unsustainable and invite speculation. There are other ways of reducing the poacher’s profit).

            “More law enforcement is the solution.”
            Law enforcement is essential but difficult over vast areas and it is expensive. Greatly increased expenditure has not been able to reduce the numbers poached. There are high rewards to poaching and the risks are low. Corruption undermines the process. There are budget constraints. On its own, law enforcement is not working and may never work.

            “Demand reduction is the solution”
            Only about 0.1% of the Chinese population consumes the entire supply of 1,100 horn-sets so a demand reduction strategy is going to have to persuade more than 99.9% of the population or it will not be effective.
            “If South Africa sells horn, it will jeopardize rhino populations in other range states such as Namibia, India and Java”
            The intention of a Smart Trade is to satisfy demand with legal horn which should result in a reduced poaching threat for all rhino populations.

            “The ivory auction in 2008 was said to have increased the amount of poaching of elephant”
            There are some 20,000 elephant being poached every year in Africa which would produce 100 tons of ivory at, say, 5 kg per elephant. Most of that goes to China. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) has said that there is no evidence of the auction having increased or decreased poaching. 62 tons were sold to China and 46 tons to Japan. The 2008 auction was allowed by CITES on the basis that there would not be another sale for 9 years so the 62 tons sold to China was minimal, is being rationed, and represents a fraction of Chinese demand for the 9 year period. By comparison, the proposed horn trade should satisfy the full annual demand at current high prices.

            “Illegal horn will find its way on to the legal market”
            The proposed model has been structured to prevent that. There will be a clear legal channel and the only place to buy legal horn will be from the cartel of licensed TCM state hospitals. Keeping their retail licenses will depend upon their respecting a “Best Practice” set of rules and they will lose their licenses and a very profitable business if they trade in illegal horn.

            “Poaching will still be profitable given a legal trade and poaching will continue”
            Yes, but it will be much less profitable to the criminals than now and carry higher risks and the market for poached horn will be much smaller. Illegal goods typically trade at a 30% discount if there is a legal market. This relates to the risk of being caught and punished. In addition there will be the risk of buying fake or poisoned horn in the illegal market which will increase the discount to, say, 40%. The Chinese government, being invested in the legal trade, is likely to clamp down on the criminal trade. The expectation is that a legal trade will substantially reduce poaching levels.

            “The trade proposal’s main aim is to enrich a few farmers and some corrupt individuals in government”
            Private ranchers own 25% of rhino in South Africa and have a right to profit from any trade, proportionately. To the extent that they make profits on trade they will pay taxes to the state in the normal way. The other 75% is owned by SANParks and provincial parks; hence 75% of the income from horn sales will go directly to those parks with no middlemen and no corruption possible.

            “More data is needed before embarking on trade”
            It is not possible to collect data when there is no legal trade. The Smart Trade model is based on the De Beers Central Selling Organization (CSO) which worked well for over 50 years. It is a tried and tested model. The CSO was closed because the competition authorities opposed a near monopoly selling to a cartel. With both the rhino horn selling monopoly and the retail (TCM) cartel belonging to governments, competition authorities should have no interest in the horn trade.

            “CITES will never accept the trade proposal”
            CITES was established to regulate trade in endangered species. Unfortunately the organization has become highly politicized, encouraged by donor agencies who influence votes, although they have no vote themselves. These agents, of which there are scores, are universally opposed to horn trade because, perhaps, a rhino crisis makes donor funding easy and the agents live off donor funds. But, are they the saviors they profess to be? The case for trade is compelling and if it is not accepted by CITES for rhino horn it is difficult to see in what circumstances and for which species trade will be acceptable.

            The arguments against trade seem weak and contrived.
            Author: Michael Eustace

            http://www.africanindaba.com/…/how-robust-are-the-argument…/

          • Anton Crone

            Thanks for your reply, Rodney.

            The calculations in the original article are based on the rising wealth of the market and the likely escalation of demand for rhino horn if trade is legalised. Eustace himself says that trade might stimulate demand. His theory about Smart Trade does not take existing syndicates and corruption into account. He does not see a substantial reduction of price, nor does he see a substantial amount horn being available on the market. A high price with limited supply makes it likely that a black market in rhino horn would exist with already established illegal networks as the foundation. This would mean poaching is likely to continue. if legalised, the sellers would no doubt want to increase their profits and their legitimate marketing of horn would increase demand. No one knows to what degree demand would increase and if prices were in fact reduced it could increase beyond supply.

            There are compelling arguments both ways and the benefit of such a forum is to hear them. Ultimately Dex asks that Molewa engages with conservationists who agree with his argument. Both sides need to be heard and I thank you for engaging us.

          • Rodney Genricks

            Hi Anton
            Your reply once again is fatally flawed in the very first line…your whole argument is based on assumptions without any scientific research and quite simply “defies all logic”.
            Eustaces theories (as a qualified economist) on trade are based on similar such illegal trade, as prohibition and that was only controlled through legalization.
            Reduction in price would be a total disaster, as any reduction will open the market which at this stage is limited to the old traditionalists with old money.
            Higher prices also increased the range state of rhino ultimately saving them from extinction, now Dex wants to reverse that, by making it unprofitable except for poachers.
            Poaching will only continue, and it will until the risk – reward pendulum changes to 80/20 in favor of legal trade. At the moment it is 90/10 in favor of illegal trade.
            Any argument without proper scientific research as this one clearly is, does not deserve to have an audience and ultimately, National Geo has a responsibility to present a clear honest picture based on solid scientific evidence. .

          • Anton Crone

            Hi Rodney. Much of this debate is hypothesis. The rhino situation is a unique and unprecedented. Like I said, there are many compelling arguments for and against and we are glad to hear yours in this forum.

          • Rodney Genricks

            Hi Anton
            With all due respect, the debate might be hypothetical, but this article was not a debate but a statement, and without a scientific foundation it is meaningless and destructive. Now when a Mag such as the Nat Geo rubber stamps that which is clearly garbage, it sends out a message that the Mag cannot be trusted to paint a realistic report/story of the situation….very disappointing as the mag has always been held in high esteem.

          • Anton Crone

            Raymond, the article is an opinion piece by a contributor who expresses his hypothesis. He does so willingly and is not in the employ of Africa Geographic (not National Geographic) and neither is he being paid for the article. Please note we have also published articles by pro-traders before. You can find links to two articles here:

            http://africageographic.com/blog/pro-trade-responds-to-rhino-conference/
            http://africageographic.com/blog/further-calls-to-legalise-rhino-horn-trade/

            My view is my own, and I comment in my own capacity, not the magazine’s.

            Africa Geographic’s policy on content can be read here:

            http://africageographic.com/our-content/

          • Rodney Genricks

            Anton
            I respect your view and apologies in referring to Nat Geo.instead of Africa Geo.
            I also take note that both the pro trade articles were based on fact and not on emotion and therefore are both credible articles.

          • Dex Kotze

            Rodney, my reference to numbers of black rhinos reducing by over 50 000 in the 70’s (about 5000 a year) is merely to drive a point that your statements are intently deceitful and misleading that there has never been an annual demand in excess of 1.5 tons. We are all aware that rhinos have been killed for their horns for hundreds of years.

            As far as the pro-trade group revering two South African economists as the messiahs on rhino economics, other highly qualified economists disagree entirely with their opinions, where readers can read full reports at: http://thestudyofvalue.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/WP5-Nadal-and-Aguayo-Leonardos-Sailors-2014.pdf

            Economic theories are not an exact science, but certainly it is influenced by human behaviour.

            Due to limitations in length of the article, I referenced an overlooked argument pertaining to the conspicuous consumption and the rising wealth in Asia and its impact on a legalised trade of rhino horn. To ignore the vastness of the Asian economic colossus and its ever-expanding network in Africa is irresponsible and downright negligent. Scholars of China are very well aware that corruption is rife in this large market. Your attempts to distract from these realities illustrate your lack of understanding of the Asian markets and the
            potential dire consequences thereof.

            It is also not necessarily the CITES ban that has “failed miserably”, but rather the lack of political will from leaders that have.

          • Rodney Genricks

            Dex
            Living in the lap of luxury as apposed to the millions around you who live in abject poverty, your views may be accepted by like minded people who have the luxury of the “entitlement of emotion”. However the poachers who are also victims in their own state, do not have the similar privilege of emotion. Theirs is a “survival of the fittest” that poaching has opened the corridor to enrichment and a better life.
            Reversing this trend will never be achieved by whips and straps, but by trade where the upliftment of the impoverished can be achieved together with the growth of the rhino.

          • Jake

            I’m sorry Dex, but Rodney is correct – your article was poorly researched, and largely agenda driven, which will paradoxically lead to the demise of the rhinos you want to protect. And if nothing more, the simple laws of economics on a macro-level scale level do not support emotional hyperbole. One need only look at illicit vs licit material to understand supply and demand, and how that affects commodity prices. I believe that a temporary regulated trade, while at the same time, working to educate the populace is the best, and most holistic route to take – not a complete ban, which has historically never worked. Tragically, it only encourages poaching. You might want to consider reading Game Changer: Animal Rights and the Fate of Africa’s Wildlife by Glenn Martin (2012). Martin vividly shows how the
            world’s last great populations of wildlife have become the hostages in a
            fight between those who love animals (you) and those who would save them. I suggest you change your worldview, lest you continue encouraging the illegal killing of Africa’s wildlife.

          • Dex Kotze
          • Jake

            The EIA has historically distorted facts to highlight animal rights agendas. At the Hand of Man: Peril and Hope for Africa’s Wildlife by Raymond Bonner goes through painstaking lengths to showcase this. As for China’s abuse of animals, no one is disputing that point, though I’m bemused you would try to paint me as someone equally as dispassionate about the plight of animals as China is. China is horrible in that regard. And lastly, why do you think poaching of elephants has skyrocketed over the last several years? Could it possibly be that cutting off supply while demand is still high via a ban, shot up the price, thus encouraging more poaching? This emboldens ivory dealers, and poor Africans willing to take the immense amount of disposable income they’re offered in lieu of low wage jobs.

            As for being out of my depth, see if your self proclaimed superior intellect can possibly understand this: The basic conversation on African conservation is now driven by new media and reflecting the changing concepts of environmentalism in the world at large. The “old” science-based approach to conservation – data driven, focused on economics, habitat and suites of species rather than on narratives that anthropomorphize individual animals – is under threat. Its adversary is a New Environmentalism founded on the “deep ecology” philosophy. The New Environmentalism is thus more about social, even religious trends than it is about science. This invests it with a power that science alone will never have, because it is grounded in the heart more than in the mind. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in reality. Richard Leakey once said, “for conservation to succeed in Africa you can’t shove [other] rights aside for animal rights. Unfortunately, that’s the impression animal rights groups are leaving – that an elephant or lion is worth more than a human being, that if a lion eats your cow, well that’s how things are sometimes. You can’t shoot the elephant raiding your crops or the lion killing your livestock, you can’t hunt for meat; you just have to take it, you have to ‘support’ wildlife because it’s the right thing to do. Ultimately that philosophy will fail all across Africa. Or more likely, it will fail and simultaneously be championed and “officially” supported: it will remain the law of the land, people will take all the money the animal rights groups offer – and the game will still be poached, poisoned, and snared to extinction.”

            With respect to Dr. Leakey, I’m confident – and with no true disrespect intended toward you sir – that you are well out of your depth. It certainly makes me glad that there are more than a fair share of comments that have rightly turned your poorly researched piece into nothing more than a sound byte for an archaic approach to true conservation. It puts your work where it belongs. I also would suggest that you take a trip out to where biologists and conservationists in places like Laikipia (The Laikipia Predator Project) are working. They’ve personally told me how they feel about bans, and they shudder thinking about what it has done, and will continue doing for wildlife.

            But you get back to me at some point when more wildlife dies as a result of the pressure to continue enforcing bans. The problem with people like you Dex is you’re not willing to even consider the other side of the argument. I was once in your camp, but the more I went outside of the mainstream media agenda, the more I began to see what is really happening to wildlife as a result of disastrous conservation policies that no longer take science into consideration. Your primary problem, my friend, is like so many others in this world you only want to hear what you already believe – you don’t want to hear the truth.

          • Patrick Beals

            Woah, Dex..based on the sheer volume of responses disagreeing with you, I’d say you were more than out of your depth when you envisaged writing this nonsense of an article. Back to elementary school for you sir.

          • Jake

            Dex, I suggest you read Dr. Dan Stiles (an economists) response to an economist with a flawed idea that a ban on ivory would work. See below:

            Current ivory trade policy has resulted in catastrophic poaching, in spite of massive media attention, several conferences producing dozens of recommendations, millions in new funding being put up, and all kinds of promises by national leaders. Yet the poaching persists because of high ivory prices and the corruption it engenders – all caused by the fact there is no legal raw ivory for Chinese factories to buy while African storerooms fill up with tusks. And instead of using those tusks to save elephants, you want to destroy them! If the domestic ivory markets of China, Japan and Thailand were closed, I could see a rationale for taking this course, but with these domestic markets open I think the Stop Ivory campaign is criminally negligent and is demonstrably resulting in the annihilation of the elephant.

            I will patiently try to respond to the many misconceptions contained in Nadal and Aguayo’s commentary.

            1. “The traditional storyline of pro-trade advocates for ivory has been that consumer prices will be pushed downward by a cheaper supply of legal raw ivory and that these low prices will depress profits, etc..”

            Why is this included in the context of my essay? I’m completely opposed to this: we need to go for the Versace model of consumer ivory – high quality, high prices to suppress demand. They waffle on about lower consumer prices when it’s not even what I propose.

            2. “This third component means that the policy objective is not to put the illegal trade out of business but to bring it into the legal market. That would mean adding the processing and marketing capabilities of the illegal market to the already existing registered market in China. In our view such an approach would lead to a catastrophic outcome.”

            Bringing the currently illegal traders into the legal market IS putting them out of the current style of business they are now practicing, as I said. They would now be processing legal, not poached tusks. How can that be a catastrophic outcome? Unless they think saving thousands of elephant lives a year is a catastrophe?

            3. “Stiles appears to be unaware of the fact that this [high profits] is exactly the opposite of what would be needed to discourage illegal trade and poaching….and how it leads to market development and growth.”

            I am quite aware of the last fact, and there is a main factor that will discourage attracting new operators and an expansion of trade: the lack of customers. As I said, you do not see Versace boutiques on every street corner, in spite of the fact that Versace profits are high and there are many people who would like to buy Versace. Price keeps it high cost, low volume. I don’t follow the mention of illegal trade and poaching. Are Nadal and Aguayo suggesting illegal outlets using poached ivory could operate this way? First, they don’t now, as a report on China in preparation by Vigne and Martin will show, and second, as I’ve been trying to explain, why would anyone use high-risk illegal ivory if legal were available? Please, answer that question.

            4. “Stiles suggests that a “conservation tax” could be imposed on ivory products to keep prices high. This could of course reduce profitability, although the tax could be transmitted to final consumer prices. In any event, a tax of this sort would be accompanied by perverse incentives to evade it and would bring about new pressures to maintain illegal operations. Stiles does not discuss these implications.”

            Why do they say, “..although the tax…” as if it’s a bad thing? Of course the tax would be transmitted to the consumer, that’s one of the main points of it, to raise the price. Why would the vendors evade a tax the consumer pays? It costs the vendor nothing. I don’t think Nadal and Aguayo understand economics very well.

            5. “As we show below, his distinction between “speculators” and agents operating in the ivory market is unclear and without support…”

            I can’t wait to read below. If it is unclear how do you know it has support or not?

            6. “Supply sources for ivory are not under control today in Africa and will probably not be under any form of sufficient control any time soon. Thus the notion that supply by the Chinese government would be able to outcompete illegal sources is a tenuous, even disingenuous, proposition.”

            A half-way valid point at last, except for the last cheap shot. The control of ivory sources I am proposing is not for the current poached sources. Enough African governments have control over the legal sources of ivory – stockpiles, natural mortality, problem animal control – to supply the Chinese (and Japanese) in order that they in turn can outcompete illegal sources. The strategy I propose is not to “control” the current illegal sources that exist with free-range elephants currently being massacred, it is to lower the price incentives to kill them to such an extent that the organized networks will quit. Since government personnel, including law enforcement, are often involved, the foxes guarding the henhouse will transform into guard dogs through self-interest. Why carry on facilitating poaching with falling prices when they can make more selling the legal ivory – plus ensuring the future supply of legal ivory by natural mortality by withdrawing support to poaching.

            7. “In his proposal, all the illegal factories and outlets that would like to partake in the legal trade would be allowed to enter it. This means the same criminals and networks that have been driving the illegal trade would be entrusted into the legal system.”

            Yes, precisely, I don’t see the problem. These are businessmen, as economists you should understand this, they will operate out of self-interest. If it’s more profitable and lower risk to operate legally, they will. Perhaps you have some moral objection? My morals tell me I if that’s what it takes to save 10,000 or more elephant lives a year, so be it.

            8. “Stiles proposes not only establishment of a legal trade but also inclusion of all the illegal operators. This is surprising….”

            This just repeats the point made in No. 2 above and my answer is the same, see No. 2.

            9. “Implementing this strategy would automatically translate into the expansion of existing installed capacity and of the market….blah, blah.”

            Again, No. 2 above, with the addition of some nonsensical claims of “modified market structure”, “price formation processes”, etc. There are currently 37 registered factories and 145 licensed outlets, all located in tier 1 and 2 cities in China. If a consumer outside these large cities, which are the only ones to have legal ivory sources, wants ivory – the vast majority of China – they are forced to buy illegal ivory, or travel a long distance to get legal, economically unfeasible in most cases. So they buy illegal. It is desirable from many perspectives, especially that of living elephants struggling to avoid poachers’ bullets and poison, to expand legal ivory to reach consumers so that they don’t have to buy poached ivory. Hopefully, with demand reduction campaigns, this will increasingly become unnecessary.

            10. II: Stockpiling Is Not Independent of Trade

            This section disputes my contention that stockpiling driven by supply reduction fuels poaching, using many loaded terms such as “distorted”, “flawed”, “mere conjectures”, “carelessly”, etc. even before they present any evidence whatsoever to support the use of these terms. I believe this is called “setting up” the reader.

            I do not disagree with anything N and A say about businesses stockpiling raw materials and commodities for the reasons they give, it is all out of Economics 101 taught in lower division university courses.

            We can bicker back and forth about whether it is speculative stockpiling or consumer demand that is the key driver of poaching, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter for the system I propose that aims to reduce high prices, the need for corruption, and ultimately poaching.

          • Guest

            FYI. Dex

            “Zambia was home to Africa’s third largest black rhino population until the poaching of the 1970s and 1980s resulted in their extinction in the country in the early 1990s. The country’s rhino population prior to 1960 was estimated at 8,000–12,000 (Anon., 1982). As late as 1975 the estimate was at 4,000-8,000. These numbers were reduced to fewer than 2,000 by 1979 (Anon., 1982). In the Luangwa Valley, which remained the country’s stronghold, Emslie and Brooks (1999) recorded 2,750 in 1980; 1,650 in 1984; 106 in 1991; 40 in 1992; and in the early 1990s the rhino was declared extinct in Zambia. There was an average of two rhinos killed a day in Lauangwa, about the same as in South Africa today.”

  • Alison Heyns

    Legalising rhino horn and ivory trade would backfire, says top conservationist http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/18/legalising-rhino-horn-ivory-trade

    • LaraRobertson

      Ask him to back it up and try and separate the two species as they are not the same debate

  • John William Salevurakis

    I find it odd that people view extant corruption as an argument against trade. Generally, corruption will find a way to benefit regardless of the surroundings. Given that, is it not much better to have more money generated by trade to either A) combat corruption B) somewhat leak through the corruption to where it benefits species, or C) create circumstances whereby the corrupt themselves perceive a reduced incentive to kill the goose laying golden eggs? In my view, a horrifically corrupt and inefficient market based system for wildlife conservation will always work better than the most well-intentioned and efficient (but horrifically underfunded) system of prohibition. Only when the developing world refuses to adopt first world solutions to its problems will success be the remotest possibility

    • Rodney Genricks

      Well stated John and logical….This document is absolutely horrific in its lack of research and understanding of the problem.

      • John William Salevurakis

        Thanks. I am an economist and, while I understand why the “anti-trade” crowd might initially feel that this is an “immoral” approach to managing a species, I am always amazed that they illogically prefer to conserve an individual animal rather than ensure the survival of more animals in the future. Their marriage to a flawed ideology kills more animals than even the poachers ever dreamed.

        • Rodney Genricks

          Yes agreed John one needs a holistic view, as a pure emotional one is totally self destructive as the above article clearly is.

    • pcuvie

      Moronic.

      • Jim

        Pcuvie, if you all you can come up with is a one word response “moronic” then you shouldn’t bother inserting your opinion on a subject I suspect you know little about. Incidentally, you should probably take the time to read the many posts discrediting Dex’s very biased, poorly examined article. I’m glad they were written in response because each one does a good job discrediting Dex’s bad attempt at being a subject matter expert on the rhino crisis. If he had opted to write an unbiased piece, this article would have presented a lot more substance, and might have given readers a lot more to think about.This is the problem with so called journalism/investigative reporting today.

        • pcuvie

          I read the comments and my simple statement stands.

          • Jim

            Simple statement from a simpleton then 🙂

  • Ron PARNELL

    This debate is very sad. Pity there is no room for morals, ethics or humanity in this fight for the economic rights to wildlife. The whole sustainable use thing is so depressing: yes, it does pay dividends in some cases, but I think it is very naive to think that this is a one size fits all solution. A programme to ‘farm’ game is one thing, but rhino/eles/tiger etc.. Is something else.
    There is just one word that will determine where we go in the future – “GREED”. Respect to all those honest conservationists who value wildlife for its own sake.

  • Kim Da Ribeira

    How do those who promote legal trade even begin to imagine we can realistically supply the demand? Legal trade in perlemoen has not worked at reducing poaching. The level of corruption in South Africa is a huge concern, we just have to look at the findings of the Kumleben commission’s report, despite the commissions findings no arrests or prosecutions were ever made. Legal trade is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, except for those who in the short term stand to profit from trade.

  • Willem Frost

    Unfortunately not a very good article. Lots of criticism re legalised trade, but no alternative solution offered. One can only conclude that the author is in favour of the existing system that has clearly failed and that has caused a bloodbath. We have two options: (i) we continue as is, or (ii) we legalise trade. No need to repeat the arguments in favour of legal, controlled trade here – it has been outlined over and over again. If we don’t try something new (legalised trade) we should expect the current escalating bloodbath to continue.
    Secondly, it seems most of the objectors to trade have no investment in rhino, or other wildlife for that matter. Many of them are also from countries with no rhinos. It seems to me it might often be the “animal rights underskirt” hanging out. Can’t take them too seriously.

  • I wish we could have a massive drive to collect and grind up people’s toenail clippings, and flood the current black market with powdered “rhino horn” and hopefully have someone craft realistic horns from this as well. Unfortunately even that would probably still drive up the death and violence as they’d have to go to greater lengths to prove a horn was real. Infect the horn with flesh eating bacteria? Rebranding maybe- Save the rhinosaur (yes I know it’s a mammal, but still, closest we are going to get to Triceratops!)? An iPad app where you get to raise a rhino and then people try to kill it, anything to make people FEEL the impact? I’m not poking fun at the problem at all, we have a rhino orphanage in the reserve next to my parents, its an absolutely dire, tragic situation.

  • Laura

    I can’t give an educated opinion, and I don’t own rhinos,
    but feel that by legalising the sale of rhino horn one is also
    endorsing the trade, and therefore encouraging the continuation thereof ad infinitum. Should rhino not be removed completely from the market?

    I understand that the money generated from sales can be used (well, some of it) for conservation, and even for rhino breeding purposes, but I also know that a lot of that money would enrich people who care less about conservation or protecting the species.
    I also don’t like the idea rhinos being born and bred to supply a whole lot of depraved people in China/Vietnam/Thailand.

    I can’t see that the legal sale of the horn stockpile is in any way going to stop poaching. As long as there is market for the horn, and as long as there are rhinos to satisfy that market, there will be
    poaching. If it is cheaper to purchase poached horn then why buy legal horn? Aren’t pirated products always cheaper?

    Wouldn’t it also be quite difficult to control the export and import of legal/illegal rhino horn.
    The fact that it would be allowable by law to trade in rhino horn would make it that much easier for the poachers to get their illegal horn across borders.

    As far as the poisoning of the horn is concerned, apparently it would be immoral and unethical to poison a product which could harm the human end-user – go figure. Sounds like the odds
    will always be stacked against the poor rhino.

    If the selling of rhino horn in fact become legal, then perhaps change the status of the rhino from wild animal to domestic farm animal, because that is what it will become, which is tragic.

    • Bugs

      Laura, I don’t think anyone can ever hope to stop poaching. The best you can do is reduce it to a point where it is under control.

      The only way I see that happening is to be able to buy the rhino time by supplying a legitimate product where the money goes to legitimate rhino custodians and not to criminals. That should decrease demand for illegal horn for which the rhino has to die. Think about it, of you are able to get a legitimate product, would you consider the risks of involving yourself in the illegal market as well.

      There are similar trade principles, cigarettes, diamonds, gold, etc where a legitimate trade model is in place and we can agree that an illegal trade still continues, but is represents such a small part of the actual trade. Imagine if we could reduce unnecessary rhino deaths to 100 per year or to 200 per year. if we did that, we would have double the rhino we have now in ten years time.

      • Laura

        I understand what you are saying, Bugs – desperate times require
        desperate measures. I still believe that
        rhino horn should be removed altogether from the market. The
        animals are poached because there is a market for the horn. Now we want to say it is okay to supply that market, as long as it is done legally, and we shall breed rhino for that market.

        Take away the market/cut off the supply and there will be no poaching. I am cognisant of the tremendous corruption, but that can also only continue with a market and a supply.

        There should be strictly enforced international laws in place and harsh penalties
        imposed on the countries that allow the horn to pass through borders. Ultimately it might be necessary to apply political or economic pressure. I can’t help believing that the only way the rhino will be saved is if the battle is fought on the diplomatic front. The world seems to be appeasing China, and the depraved people in that country, and it sure doesn’t help that the Chinese president has a predilection for ivory, and probably rhino horn, too – and one mustn’t forget that one of his best buddies is Jacob Zuma – the “custodian” of most of the rhinos in this world. It’s about time African countries got out of the clutches of the Chinese puppet master.
        Rhinos should not be sacrificed on the altar of lust, greed and corruption.

        • Bugs

          I respect your views, but to be honest if we haven’t had success in removing horn from the market in the last 50 years, then how on earth can we realistically imagine that we will do it before they kill the last rhino? The only way you will get a no supply scenario is if there are no rhinos left.

          I don’t buy the argument that corruption will make legal trade untenable. In fact it suits corrupt criminals more that the illegal trade and slaughter continues.

          Legal trade should be completely transparent and audited by independent auditors. Also remember that you have both Government and Private owners who operate independently, and in a way regulate each other.

          Right now rhinos are being sacrificed on the altar of lust greed and corruption. If trade were to be allowed then it will allow for transparency and at the very least money goes to the people who need it to save the rhino as opposed to criminals and seedy syndicates, and at the same time it reduces demand for illegal horn.

          • Bugs

            And once again, we are ignoring the fact that private owners are tending to a quarter of the rhinos. We tend to forget that they have had more success than the Parks at protecting rhinos. You also need to understand that the situation is finely balanced at the moment and its only a matter of time before private owners throw the towel in. When that happens it will become a free fall. The writing is on the wall, as rhino prices drop at auctions, and private owners are already selling out. Many have already done so. When farmers first bought rhino, they did it for various reasons, and at the time their expenses weren’t so high and they were happy to keep them. Its all changed now, and they are having to foot massive security bills. When you watch your bank balance going back wards, there will come a time where self preservation comes first. They also suffer massive frustration, as most of them know beyond question that a legal trade will save their rhinos. You also have to remember that SAN Parks have the same problem, only they have the benefit of donor funds and access to military help. Yet – even with those funds and the military – they are loosing the battle.

          • Laura

            Well, Bugs, I sure hope it all works out for the rhino in the end. Mind you, wouldn’t mind someday someone photographing a poacher impaled on a rhino horn, and selling the photo’s world-wide, with proceeds going to the protection of this species. That would indeed be a happy day in my life, and I am sure for many!

  • Bugs

    I must say that I admire Dex for the passion and effort he goes to for saving rhino, but there is a classic example of why conservation is failing

    It is clear that this article covers all his needs, wants and expectations, but is sadly lacking in an understanding of his limitations and does not address the needs, wants and expectations of the Government, the Private rhino owners, the would be poacher and the asian market. Its all good and well to expect our rhino and our wilderness areas to be respected as part of our heritage and to be treated as some sort of holly grail, but we have to be reminded that – not every body sees it that way, and there limitations to achieve that dream anyway.

    You may say, hold on we are talking about rhinos here, and not people. It is clear that if we don’t address the human issue we will never be able to deal with the wildlife issue. Its all good and well dictating policy and to people and throwing them in jail or shooting them when they cross the line, but how do they see it. How do you explain to people that a rhinos life is worth more then theirs. How can we deny SAN Parks, Government and private rhinos an opportunity to recover their expenses for keeping rhino? Its very idealistic to think that you will transform public opinion in the asian market by using celebrities and movie stars, without bothering to understand them.

    So lets address the needs, wants, expectations and limitations of the rhino. About six months ago I visited a rhino sanctuary. The baby rhinos bounced along up to me nudging and rubbing me squealing for some milk. I broke down into tears, not because they were so cute and adorable, but because these poor animals have no idea what is going on and how many good people are trying to help, how many people are trying to kill them and how many people couldn’t care a damn. All they want is to live.

    So we do need to continue with everything we are doing now, but we also need to address the needs of the people or we will fail. The Asian market needs the horns, the government, SAN Parks and private rhino owners need the funds, the wannabe poachers need to see benefits from living close to wildlife and the rhino needs to live. If we can’t find a legal route for horn to reach the market and fund the stressed protectors of the rhino, we will fail.

    There is a way that a controlled sustained legal supply of horn can be made available to the market, and if it is done correctly, the chances of it making the situation worse are extremely slim. From the argument of risk, it is far more risky carrying on like we are.

  • Devilliers Aarens

    This is a message for every anti-trade person who bought into Dex’s flawed narrative. I would also encourage Africa Geographic to do some real research and understand that an anti-trade stance will ultimately usher in the extinction of rhino and elephant. I understand that pro-trade seems counter intuitive, but facts speak for themselves, as the following will by dismantling every anti-trade statement. If you care for rhino, you will read this:

    1. “It is morally wrong to sell horn if it does not work”

    The Chinese are the main consumers and they believe, or some believe, that it works. Western medicine is skeptical and has said so. There are thousands of different remedies that are sold all over the world that have no proven effectiveness and there are lots of products sold that are actually harmful. Nobody has suggested that horn is harmful. A placebo can have a powerful beneficial effect. Killing 1,000 rhino in 2013 was clearly wrong and if the killing can be reduced by trade then the world will be a better place, regardless of whether horn works or not and any comparatively minor sensitivities around that.

    2. “Trade will stimulate demand”

    Some consumers may not buy horn now because it is illegal to do so. But the “Smart Trade” model of a monopoly selling to a cartel of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) hospitals will be able to adjust the price of horn so as to bring the level of demand into balance with a sustainable level of supply. Also, Smart Trade is designed to reduce the appetite speculators now have for buying horn, an appetite that is based on the prospect of the value of horn increasing because of the declining numbers of rhino. Trade should lead to less speculation in horn which will reduce poaching.

    3. “Trade cannot satisfy the ‘insatiable’ demand”

    Actual consumer demand is limited by high prices and is estimated at a total of 1,100 horn – sets p.a. South Africa can sustainably supply 1,300 horn – sets from stocks (400), natural deaths (400) and farmed horn (500). The re are said to be a large number of “intenders” who would buy horn if the price was lower but that is the case with most products. (There is no intention in the model to reduce prices and “flood” the market with horn so as to reduce the poacher’s profit. R educing the poacher’s profit would be good but flooding the market would be unsustainable and invite speculation. There are other ways of reducing the poacher’s profit). “More law enforcement is the solution.” Law enforcement is essential but difficult over vast areas and it is expensive. Greatly increased expenditure has not been able to reduce the numbers poached. There are high rewards to poaching and the risks are low. Corruption undermines the process. There are budget constraints. On its own, law enforcement is not working and may never work.

    4. “Demand reduction is the solution” Only about 0.1% of the Chinese population consumes the entire supply of 1,100 horn – sets so a demand reduction strategy is going to have to persuade more than 99.9% of the population or it will not be effective.

    5. “If South Africa sells horn, it will jeopardize rhino populations in other range states such as Namibia, India and Java”

    The intention of a Smart Trade is to satisfy demand with legal horn which should result in a reduced poaching threat for all rhino populations. “The ivory auction in 2008 was said to have increased the amount of poaching of elephant” There are some 20,000 elephant being poached every year in Africa which would produce 100 tons of ivory at, say, 5 kg per elephant. Most of that goes to China. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) has said that there is no evidence of the auction having increased or decreased poaching. 62 tons were sold to China and 46 tons to Japan. The 2008 auction was allowed by CITES on the basis that there would not be another sale for 9 years so the 62 tons sold to China was minimal, is being rationed, and represents a fraction of Chinese demand for the 9 year period. By comparison, the proposed horn trade should satisfy the full annual demand at current high prices.

    6. “Illegal horn will find its way on to the legal market”

    The proposed model has been structured to prevent that. There will be a clear legal channel and the only place to buy legal horn will be from the cartel of licensed TCM state hospitals. Keeping their retail licenses will depend upon their respecting a “Best Practice” set of rules and they will lose their licenses and a very profitable business if they trade in illegal horn.

    7. “Poaching will still be profitable given a legal trade and poaching will continue”

    Yes, but it will be much less profitable to the criminals than now and carry higher risks and the market for poached horn will be much smaller. Illegal goods typically trade at a 30% discount if there is a legal market. This relates to the risk of being caught and punished. In addition there will be the risk of buying fake or poisoned horn in the illegal market which will increase the discount to, say, 40%. The Chinese government, being in vested in the legal trade, is likely to clamp down on the criminal trade. The expectation is that a legal trade will substantially reduce poaching levels.

    8. “The trade proposal’s main aim is to enrich a few farmers and some corrupt individuals in government”

    Private ranchers own 25% of rhino in South Africa and have a right to profit from any trade, proportionately. To the extent that they make profits on trade they will pay taxes to the state in the normal way. The other 75% is owned by SANParks and provincial parks; hence 75% of the income from horn sales will go directly to those parks with no middlemen and no corruption possible.

    “More data is needed before embarking on trade”

    9. It is not possible to collect data when there is no legal trade. The Smart Trade model is based on the De Beers Central Selling Organization (CSO) which worked well for over 50 years. It is a tried and tested model. The CSO was closed because the competition authorities opposed a near monopoly selling to a cartel. With both the rhino horn selling monopoly and the retail (TCM) cartel belonging to governments, competition authorities should have no interest in the horn trade.

    10. “CITES will never accept the trade proposal”

    CITES was established to regulate trade in endangered species. Unfortunately the organization has become highly politicized, encouraged by donor agencies who influence votes, although they have no vote themselves. These agents, of which there are scores, are universally opposed to horn trade because, perhaps, a rhino crisis makes donor funding easy and the agents live off donor funds. But, are they the saviors they profess to be? The case for trade is compelling and if it is not accepted by CITES for rhino horn it is difficult to see in what circumstances and for which species trade will be acceptable.

    The arguments against trade seem weak and contrived.

    • Peter

      Excellent points!

      Between 1990 and 2007, 15 southern white and black rhinoceros on average were killed illegally every year in South Africa. Since 2007 illegal killing of southern white rhinoceros for their horn has escalated to >950 individuals/year in 2013. We conducted an ecological – economic analysis to determine whether a legal trade in southern white rhinoceros horn could facilitate rhinoceros protection. Generalized linear models were used to examine the socioeconomic drivers of poaching, based on data collected from 1990 to 2013, and to project the total number of rhinoceroses likely to be illegally killed from 2014 to 2023. Rhinoceros population dynamics were then modeled under 8 different policy scenarios that could be implemented to control poaching. We also estimated the economic costs and benefits of each scenario under enhanced enforcement only and a legal trade in rhinoceros horn and used a decision support framework to rank the scenarios with the objective of maintaining the rhinoceros population above its current size while generating profit for local stakeholders. The southern white rhinoceros population was predicted to go extinct in the wild <20 years under present management. The optimal scenario to maintain the rhinoceros population above its current size was to provide a medium increase in anti – poaching effort and to increase the monetary fine on conviction. Without legalizing the trade, implementing such a scenario would require covering costs equal to approximately $147,000,000/year. With a legal trade in rhinoceros horn, the conservation enterprise could potentially make a profit of $717,000,000/year. We believe the 35 – year – old ban on rhinoceros horn products should not be lifted unless the money generated from trade is reinvested in improved protection of the rhinoceros population. Because current protection efforts seem to be failing, it is time to evaluate, discuss, and test alternatives to the present policy.

      • Andrew Agostini

        Hey Peter! Thank you for leaving your comment. You’ve made me very curious to read your analysis. Could you share a link to your work? Thanks in advance

  • Bugs
  • Bugs

  • Arthur

    This is a ridiculous article promoting a false and very dangerous narrative. In all practical terms, a complete ban simply won’t work. It will only further escalate the poaching as is seen in places in Africa where bans are in place like Kenya. All facts can easily refute this. Look at Namibia where sustainable off-take is practiced to promote livelihoods. Much less poaching problems there. And whatever happened to unbiased journalism that promotes both sides of the issue instead of only promoting one? Everything is agenda based nowadays. It would have been better if Mr. Dex had showcased both sides of the argument instead of imposing his own ideology. At least both sides would have caused people to think more critically.

  • Young South African

    Once again we have pro- & anti-trade taking shots at each other. I could try state my anti-trade case, but that would be adding fuel to an unnecessary fire and I won’t be saying anything new. It’s silly that we have to argue while we’re both working towards a common goal (conserving rhinos). Truth is we need to work together because that’s nature’s way. The anti-trade argument acknowledges the complexity of the situation but fails to recognise that putting fences around things has created a need to manage them and that brings money into play. But that doesn’t mean trade will work like magic. Conservation also involves science, Rhinos are not cows, and syndicates are not reading from the same book as pro-traders.
    A purely anti-trade or purely pro-trade approach will not work. We all need to stop acting like toddlers & work together.

  • Lynn Guini

    China has well over a billion people and controls markets all over the world. If you legalize the trade, you will create a demand that cannot be met. Legalizing Rhino trade would mean the effort to discourage people from consuming Rhino parts will have to be stopped and demand will get out of control very quickly, supply will not be able to keep up, prices will soar and wipe out wild Rhino very quickly. (Elephant-rahula)

  • Piet Vormwald

    This article is doing more damage to conservation than good. If you make everything illegal, that only gives more incentive to kill off wildlife. Look what happened in the US during the era of prohibition. There was more alcohol use and black market business being done. Is this dex guy even credible?

  • Rebecca

    seems like this guy’s article is full of flaws and holes. i’ve studied the asian economic markets for 15 years and he’s way off on a lot of his claims.

  • Jamie Joseph

    If the rhino trade were legalised the message it gives out is that the product works, and the number of consumers would skyrocket. And why would they buy the legal regulated rhino horn when they can get the illegal horn cheaper – tax and duty free? We should learn from ivory. Right now you can buy a limited amount of legal ivory in China, but people continue to buy illegal ivory – because it’s plentiful and cheaper. What a legal trade does do is provide a channel for laundering poached animal products. (Wise words told to me by Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid / savingthewild.com interview)

    Morally speaking, if the rhino horn trade were to be legalized, we’re dealing not only with Asia’s insatiable demand for status products, but also a lot of people who truly believe rhino horn has medicinal healing properties. Any kind of legalization of the rhino horn trade would amount to endorsing rhino horn as medicine, which it’s not. Very sick people could literally stake their lives on this animal product, and that could be fatal.

    Speaking as an African, isn’t it about time all Africans stop pandering to greed and think long term about what is best for Africa? We can overcome the poaching crisis, but it will take a lot of political will and public pressure to root out corruption. Rather than wasting our time and energy on something that is clearly unsustainable, and ethically wrong, lets use all of that resource to focus on saving our natural heritage.

    • ctulpa

      Jamie, they already believe rhino horn medicine works. They don’t need any endorsement to get consumers. They have centuries of medical practice that says it works.
      Why would they buy legal horn instead of illegal horn? Why do you buy your prescription from a pharmacy instead of the the illegal dealer on the street?
      Maybe you would prefer not to be arrested. Maybe you would prefer not to be prosecuted. Maybe you would prefer to not spend time in a chinese prison? Hmmm, maybe legal horn would be a better option for the buyer?
      Legalizing anything does not give it an endorsement for healing properties. You are not giving it an FDA approval for treatment, but only legalizing the trade of regulated horn. Allowing the legal trade of paint thinner is not an endorsement for medical use, although some may use it for that.
      And many are trying to inject poison into the horn to make any end user sick or die. Lets talk about the morality of that!

      Rhinos are being killed and the numbers are dropping due to the present illegal trade program. Military style anti-poaching is not stopping the poaching and everyday poaching is taking more rhino. That does not work. The present system does not work. Rhinos are going to go extinct with the present system of illegal trade and military protection. Making it illegal for consumers does not work as it is illegal now and they still use it. China does enforce the illegal ban, but cant stop the use of it, because people believe it works. You cannot change that belief system that has been there for centuries. It is like religion.

      Do you have another solution to bring to the table, as present policy is going to result in the extinction of rhinos.

  • The argument in favour of legalising the trade in Rhino horn centers around the idea that it will stimulate production thereby increasing supply and ultimately drive down the price of rhino horn to the point where poaching is halted because it is no longer profitable. This is an attractive idea but will never work because there is an established market of 1 billion consumers but the moment only the top 0.01 percent of them can afford the product. Even if you did manage to drive down the price you will only succeed in making it affordable to an ever increasing market. Unless we have a plan to supply 1 000 000 000 people with all the rhino horn they want it will have no impact on the current level of poaching but will certainly stoke demand and make it easier to market illegal horn openly thereby doing more harm than good. Sadly the only hope I see is to establish breeding centers outside of Africa in places with suitable climates (Texas and Australia come to mind) where populations can be protected so that one day we will have animals to reintroduce back into Africa if it ever becomes safe to do so.

    • ctulpa

      If as you say 1 billion chinese want to use rhino horn, then it also leads to they must know more than us about rhino horn. Unless you think you know medicine much better than the chinese that have been using it for centuries…. is it possible they may know something about this product? Even if it doesn’t do anything medically, the people believe it does and that in itself is a medicine.
      So let’s face a fact. They won’t stop buying and using rhino horn in China. And lets face another fact, Vietnam in and increasing user as well. So the market demand is increasing. That is fact. And the market demand is increasing when there is a total ban on rhino horn. It is illegal in China. But that does not stop demand. If we keep up with the same approach as we have been since all rhino horn is illegal now, we will stay on the path of losing all the remaining rhino until they are extinct.
      Better come up with another plan. Illegal trade and bans and using military to kill poachers does not work. It has shown time and again over the years that it does not work. We are losing the rhino.
      What other plan can you bring to the table. As status quo is not working.