Saving The Rhino - Part 1
Saving The Rhino - Part 1
by Paul Ash
Poachers continue to slaughter South Africa's rhinos as the price of horn skyrockets. Time to legalize the trade, Ash asks.
In the autumn of 1892, a man named Frederick Courteney Selous set sail from Africa for England. Selous was in a deep funk. As the original Great White Hunter, he had, with his single-shot, 10-bore rifle, dispatched a great swathe of wild animals during a lengthy and bloody hunting career. Yet, despite months of searching, he had been unable to find and shoot a single white rhino specimen for a European museum. Selous and other hunters believed that, at most, a handful of rhinos had survived the unhinged slaughter of Southern Africa's wildlife in the closing decades of the 19th century.These were now frightened, gun-shy animals probably hiding in remote thickets in the difficult, malarial country between the White and Black Umfolozi rivers. A few years later, Selous wrote: "But that 20 of these strange old-world creatures are alive today, I very much doubt ... I cannot think that the species will survive very far into the coming century."
Selous would probably have been greatly surprised to see what has happened a century later in South Africa. Not only has the white rhino survived, but there are now roughly 18,500 of them spread across national parks, game reserves and private farms. In many cases, Selous would not even have bothered to raise his rifle - because many have been dehorned in an attempt to prevent poaching, and horns have been locked in bank vaults.
I recently visited a private rhino rancher (who requested his name be withheld). Formerly what he called a "normal" farmer, running cattle and growing vegetables, he turned to game ranching in the mid-1990s as the wildlife breeding business took off. Now he is just one of a growing number of private rhino owners in South Africa who, between them, own roughly 25% of the local white rhino population. The rancher has been breeding rhinos since 1994 with considerable success. "I think the white rhino is the most incredible animal in the world," he said. "It deserves to be protected." The large number of rhinos grazing happily in camps seems to confirm the idea that farming rhinos as if they were merely very large cows works. "Whether it's grapes or wheat or mangoes, give the job to farmers - they'll do it well."
As part of his sustained effort to protect his animals, all have been dehorned. At current prices, the rancher's horn stash is worth millions of dollars, but there will be no payday for him or any other rhino owner until the ban on the trade in rhino horn is lifted. That is unlikely to happen any time soon - but legalizing this trade could be their salvation.
Rhinos are protected under the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which forbids trade in rhino horn.
That white rhinos have prospered so well in South Africa is thanks to a legal market for breeding and selling them, driven by rising prices for live animals for both wildlife tourism as well as the vibrant trophy-hunting market. It is no small irony that the rhino, which had been hunted almost to extinction a century ago, has been saved by hunters.
In October 1953, when legendary conservationist Ian Player conducted the first aerial survey of the Umfolozi Game Reserve, he counted 437 white rhinos. In the following years, Player and his team translocated dozens of rhinos to other parks and overseas zoos because they were literally running out of elbow room in Umfolozi. In the end, though, rhino survival is a matter of simple economics, says independent environmental economist Michael 't Sas-Rolfes. "Trophy hunting is largely responsible for the growth in our rhino population," he says. "The market has saved them."
TOM MILLIKEN Regional Director of TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa, is to become thematic program leader for TRAFFIC’s global work on elephant and rhinoceros trade, thus formalizing a role he has played for many years. Tom will bring to this position a wealth of knowledge and experience from his longstanding and excellent work for TRAFFIC, particularly in Africa and Asia.
Trophy hunting attracts large sums of money from hunters, mostly from the US, Europe and the Middle East, who can afford to hunt a rhino. A trophy hunter may shoot one rhino a year and export its horn, subject to CITES provisions. That trophy hunting has saved the white rhino is a view that many conservationists and animal lovers find unpalatable. But the numbers do not lie: in 1982, trophy hunters paid $5,500 to shoot a white rhino; by 2008, the price had peaked at $54,000 before dropping to about $29,000 in 2010. If the trophy-hunting market ensured some sort of balance in the rhino business, the recent surge in poaching has not only wrecked the peace, but also threatens to drive the rhino to final extinction as the black-market price of rhino horn soars to astronomical levels. For the first time in recent memory, rhinos are worth more dead than alive. Conservationists believe the resurgent trade has been driven by declining stocks of available horn in Asian traditional medicine markets, most notably China and Viet Nam, where, although illegal in both countries, it is often used in preparations to cure fevers. Despite a popular myth constantly peddled in Western media, rhino horn is not used as an aphrodisiac. Tom Milliken, regional director for international environmental monitoring group Traffic, says improving economic performance and rising prosperity in the East means people can now afford traditional cures that were previously out of reach. "GDP is up, personal income is up and there's lots of disposable income," he says.
Saving The Rhino - Part 2
Saving The Rhino - Part 2
John Hume, Owner of Mauricedale Game Ranch, South Africa
Presentation to the CIC General Assembly, St. Petersburg
Our rhino are in a terrible crisis .We have to find a way to protect rhino or they will become extinct very shortly. Rhino are vulnerable and totally dependent on wise men for their survival.
It is estimated that 50 years ago there were a 100,000 rhino in Africa with probably 2,000 – 3,000 in South Africa and 97,000 or 98,000 in the rest of Africa. This figure has now inverted with a total of about 26,000 rhino of which approximately 22,000 are in South Africa and 4,000 in the rest of Africa. So 98,000 in the rest of Africa have become 4,000 while 2,000 in South Africa have become 22,000. South Africa kept the poachers at bay while rhino were wiped out in most of Africa.
Now in South Africa we are facing the scourge and we are having one rhino poached every day. Clearly we have done too little to help the rhino - or rather what we have done has been the wrong thing. To make things worse the consumers or Pseudo hunters, as I call them, are demanding probably 98% of the legally hunted rhino and killing them in such a way as to blacken the reputation of genuine trophy hunters.
Stop Press: TIME Vol. 177 No. 24, 2011, Pages 32-39
Rhino’s at Risk
How Asia’s Growing Appetite For Traditional Medicine Is Threatening Africa’s Rhinos
In order to sustainably produce rhino, we have to encourage private owners to breed them as they are simply better at protecting their rhino than the Governments of Africa have been. Unfortunately the opposite has occurred in the last 10 years where the private owners in South Africa have been dramatically discouraged from breeding rhino by onerous and punitive legislation. Rhino horn re-grows so, if it could be farmed sustainably and the farmers were allowed to make a profit from horn production, they would never need to sell an animal to be killed by a horn consumer and that is also happening every day in South Africa.
The one thing that we should be doing for our rhino is breeding as many as possible and killing as few as possible but everything that we are doing is aiming at the opposite. Why can’t we wake up and realize that the rhino could produce an income for communities, emergent black farmers and commercial farmers and that the owners of rhino would never want to kill them if they were making a sustainable income from them. In other words they would not kill the goose that was laying golden eggs.
When the poachable rhino in the rest of Africa had diminished dramatically the Eastern demand found that they could legally pseudo sport hunt rhino in South Africa. Then about 3 years ago when the South African government became aware of this they drastically reduced the permits and visas issued to Eastern hunters and poaching dramatically escalated.
I think the government and the conservationist in South Africa towards the end of last year considered that the better of the two evils would be to issue more permits for hunting in an attempt to stop the poaching because at least the hunting permits would be utilized predominantly for male rhino whereas poaching is indiscriminate often targeting pregnant cows as well as cows with small calves. Now I have become aware of the most bizarre and terrible situation involving the rhino. It turns out that it has become more attractive to a pseudo hunter to kill a young six or eight year old bull with a horn of 16 – 20 in. rather than a trophy bull of 28 – 30 in. This is because the hunter pays by the kilo of horn on the dead rhino and the horn of a young animal apparently is cheaper by the kilo. Thus we are killing the very rhino which are capable of saving their species from extinction as they can produce one kilo of rhino horn per year for the next 30 – 35 years if it was harvested regularly from the live rhino. It has been proven that it is possible to safely and painlessly dehorn rhino without much stress.
We could thus face the situation where we had the capability of sustainably producing enough horn to keep the poachers at bay and increase the numbers of our rhino population, but where we allowed this to slip through our fingers by killing the very animals that could sustainably produce the horn that could save our rhino from extinction. When the white rhino was taken off CITES Appendix 1, South Africa was allowed to trophy hunt white rhino and get a CITES permit to export the trophy and it was this that gave the Eastern pseudo hunter the gap to kill rhino and export the trophy. If we put white rhino back to Appendix 1, it would also be the death knell for our rhino population because our poaching would merely escalate to higher levels as no rhino horn could be legally acquired.
There is only one hope for the rhino in Africa and that is to continue our efforts to increase our anti-poaching coupled with the legalizing of the trade in rhino horn. This would enable farmers to sustainably produce and harvest rhino horn without killing the rhino when it is destined for consumer use rather than trophies. When a genuine trophy hunter requires a trophy it will not impact on the production of horn because the large trophy animals are all near the end of their productive life; unlike the young animals that are currently being slaughtered for the consumer trade rather than for the trophy hunter.
I feel incredibly helpless in the face of what I consider is the impending extinction of the rhino in Africa and I feel that the people who could do something about it are either standing by with folded arms or are completely unaware or uncaring that the rhino will become extinct.
Please consider the following: The existing wildlife conservation agencies have failed, failed spectacularly, to conserve rhino over the past 50 years, and they show no signs of changing the strategy. To continue the same failed strategy and hope for different results is insanity. A regulated trade in horn has the best chance of solving the problem and a few good brains that understand how markets work could produce a much better strategy.
I repeat - rhino are vulnerable and totally dependent on wise men for their survival. I plead with you to go back to your home country and persuade your delegate to CITES not to rely on the continuation of the trade ban, as being the solution. Southern Africa has the capacity to supply, on a sustainable basis, all the horn the medicine market demands, horn sourced from natural death, existing legal stock piles, and sustainable, legal farmed horn.There is no need to kill one animal for the consumers of horn as they do not need a trophy. It is an absurd situation! We could without poaching have 50,000 rhino in 12 years. That should be our target and our measurable bottom line.