The War on Rhinos: More Thoughts on Horn Trade and Traditional Oriental Medicine

Discussion in 'News & Announcements' started by AFRICAN INDABA, Jan 9, 2011.

  1. AFRICAN INDABA

    AFRICAN INDABA CONTRIBUTOR AH Enthusiast

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    The War on Rhinos: More Thoughts on Horn Trade and Traditional Oriental Medicine
    by Gerhard R Damm

    The slaughter of rhinos continues virtually unabated – there is hardly a day when we don’t read or hear about new gruesome discoveries. What can be done to prevent that South Africa, once the cradle of rebirth of the rhino, eventually becomes its final graveyard?

    Is legalized trade the answer? Such an approach certainly has its merits, since it would deal with a considerable stockpile of privately and government owned rhino horn. Without an outlet, such stocks do not only become the target of criminal elements (like at Thaba Manzi Game Lodge near Bela Bela just a couple of weeks ago), but also incur prohibitively high costs. The destruction of horn stocks is a too simplistic solution, and as wasteful as Kenya’s ivory burning ceremony years ago.

    Yet, legalizing even very restricted trade channels will also have consequences which need to be thoroughly analyzed. Legalization of rhino horn trade in whatever form can only be tabled at and decided by the Conference of the Parties of CITES. The next full CITES meeting takes place in 2013. The South African CITES Delegation must submit a comprehensive proposal to the 16th CoP, and the voting members of must accept such a proposal with a two thirds majority. The bitter divisions across the African continent caused by the elephant ivory debate during previous CITES conferences leave but little hope for a trade acceptance. Whatever decision is made in 2013 – for the rhinos, it may be too little and too late. The well meaning proponents of legalized trade in rhino horn argue that the release of existing stocks will drive down prices and will make organized poaching unprofitable. It is, however, conceivable that legalization and the wider accessibility of products containing rhino horn may drive up demand. Rhino horn is used as ingredient of traditional medicines, not only in China, but practically throughout East and Southeast Asia (please read also the articles on pages 14 to 18 Frequently Asked Questions: Rhino Dehorning by Faan Coetzee of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Rhino Security Project and Richard Ellis’ book extract “Rhino Horn: Facts and Myths” for further details).

    Teams of Chinese and western resource economists really will have to dig deep to evaluate and understand the market dynamics before any informed decision can be made. And this evaluation is not a simple exercise in western marketing science. The thousands of years of practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) add factors of yet unknown complexity.

    To put matters into perspective, I made a purely hypothetical calculation. The 2007 population of the People’s Republic of China numbered ca 1.321 billion. Let us assume that a mere 0.1% (one tenth of a percent) has the desire and means to consume rhino horn as part of their use of TCM products. This means that ca 1.3 million Chinese could be potential consumers of products containing rhino horn. If the consumed medicine contain only 1 gram of rhino horn and a product containing one gram of processed rhino horn is consumed once a week, the calculation for the yearly requirement of rhino horn would be

    1.3 million people x 1 gram x 52 weeks = 67.6 million grams or 67,600 kg or 67.6 tons

    I have made no assumptions regarding the average weight of a rhino horn (primary plus secondary horn), but one can probably say that horn material from more than 15,000 rhino per year is needed to sustainably supply this hypothetical market. Neither the rhino horn stocks in private and official custody, nor the horn of all presently living rhino will be able to meet such a market demand and even resorting to the controversial intensive breeding of rhinos will not bring relief for many years to come. The resource economists should urgently analyze this!

    Primarily, we must focus on national law enforcement, quick convictions and severe punishment of rhino poachers. Law enforcement actions and sentences in courts of law in South Africa need to set highly visible examples. It appears that we are now seeing some progress. President Jacob Zuma is calling for INTERPOL involvement and Defense Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, following a call from SANParks considers using SADF units and unmanned drones to target rhino poachers. As reported by News 24, the minister said “initially we might just paint [the poacher] red and arrest him, but as time goes on we will take more drastic measures," although she did not elaborate on what these measures might be.

    CITES, ICPO-INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization have signed a Letter of Understanding during the International Tiger Forum in November 2010 in St. Petersburg to bring into effect the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime. China and Viet Nam were amongst the countries who endorsed the St. Petersburg Declaration, which included inter alia halting poaching and illegal trade of tigers and tiger products. South African diplomats could use this development for the establishment of an International Rhino Forum and the CIC General Assembly in St. Petersburg in May 2011 could provide the international platform for this event. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Council and the “Save Our Species” initiative (Save Our Species - home) may be an appropriate source for funding a really decisive attack of those who threaten the last remaining rhinos of the world.

    In the Far East the focus must be on science to evaluate the potential or non-existent medical properties of medicines containing rhino horn, and whether there are any ethically acceptable substitutions like the horn of water buffalo, as has been suggested by some. There must also be a strong educational focus. The Chinese population needs to be informed of plight of the remaining rhino populations in a comprehensive media campaign (that the Chinese people are insensitive for conservation issues is a wide spread but nonetheless untrue myth).

    The somewhat dated western-lead efforts by Hoffmann-LaRoche and the Zoological Society of London concentrated on proving that there are no curative powers in rhino horn. One is tempted to suggest that most TCM practioners never heard of the studies and results, and if they did, they probably did not put much faith in studies based on western medicine. It is indispensable that the Chinese Government and the Chinese Society of Traditional Chinese Medicine urgently commission their own public studies into the medical properties at Chinese universities under the leadership of Chinese scientists. The involvement of international scientific capacities in such studies will be a bonus, but the initiative and leadership must come from China in order to produce a result credible to the practioners and users of TCM.
  2. Bert the Turtle

    Bert the Turtle AH Veteran

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    Would it be so bad to crush some Viagra into some powdered cow horn and sell it as Rhino horn? That way, there would be a sustainable supply of the horns and it would actually do what the rhino horn is supposed to do. I'd even sell it for a mere 60% of the going rate for real rhino horn. Put a brand name on it, and soon enough the market for the real stuff would dry up quickly when word got out about "Bert's Thunder Horn"
  3. Jaco Strauss

    Jaco Strauss SPONSOR AH Elite

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    Good one Bert but it is also believed that it has cancer curing abilities, I like where your heads at though...

    The complexity of the whole situation is evident, and to be honest, convincing Chinese/Vietnamese, or any people that a 2000 year old remedy has been scientifically proven to be un substantiated or a fairy tale, a very hard thing to do, we have seen this way to often in the past even right here in Africa. Maybe the calculated gamble of legalised trade is a action to be taken, as it can go either way, and we are fast running out of options. Trying to convince over a million people...well thats going to be a tough one...

    Needles to say something has to be done.

    My best always.
  4. fhm3006

    fhm3006 AH Enthusiast

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    :clapping:

    Bert / Jaco,
    in my honest opinion i think the rhino is doomed as a species.

    Throughout history up untill present are clear and undisputable evidence that whenever there is a demand by man, no matter whether illegal or not - there will be a supply to man, whether illegal or not. And with the exchange involved here, i cannot see anything changing for the better.
    As long as Asian countries have a demand and willing to pay outrageous amounts, i am afraid supply will continue. The only way i see curbing and turning around this blood-trade, is not to try and stop supply, but to stop demand.
    The question / fact however is - how long will it take the rest of the planet to change the perception of those guilty Asian countries....10 - 20 - 50 years...?
    By that time we will read about the Rhino in the same brochure we read about the Mexican Grizzly / Cape Lion / Bali Tiger / Japanese Wolf etc.etc.etc

    I watched Carte Blanche (actuality program) last Sunday evening where they had a story on the Kruger-Park Rhino slaughtering and Rhinos poaching in general. The bulls horns are cut off and stockpiled by the oners / authorites to protect them, now the poachers is slaughtering cows and calves with much less to almost no horn mass - the slaughtering goes on because the demand is there.

    It is a sad, sick!!! fact to ponder on, but imo the reality is extiction of the Rhino -just a matter of time.:2c:
  5. Jaco Strauss

    Jaco Strauss SPONSOR AH Elite

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    fhm
    While I might agree with you on most, I disagree by a long margin with one (nothing personal) and that is that I will go down fighting, and that I will always believe in the good that man has within him, call me naive or what you will, it is not in my make up to stare defeat in the face and simply except it we have pulled it off before and as long as there are individuals dedicated to the fight there is hope.... Never say never and absolutly never say die.

    It is a complex and extremely large dihlemma that we are confronted with as stated earlier, convincing a million folk is a tall order true...I think that cleaning up the South African involvement by starting the fight or rather a full scale war at home is a good start, take them on with all we have (which we have not done!!) As land owners we are still sitting back and allowing gods water to run over gods acre and such an attitude is not going to get us anywhere. Granted there are some efforts but there is so much more that can be done, we will need backing from the highest authorities and we must fight for that as well.

    A parliment official Stated the other day "Rhino will not go extinct on my watch" Well then lets work with him force him to come full circle on statements made, it is up to every South African land owner, not only the ones with Rhino, every South African outfitter and every South African for that matter to throw in their weight and do their share.

    It is encouraging to see that crooked outfitters are being brought to justice they should feel the full brunt of the law. I have no feeling of sympathy for them whatsoever nail them to the wall make examples of them do what must be done send the the right message.

    We will not tolerate the destruction or rape of any of our natural resources, the war on Abelone is a good example a multy billion $ industry has been given a large set back because of individuals that would not stop the fight. I am terribly sorry, I might be negative at times but giving up and excepting extinction is a cowardly thing to do.

    We have brought (as a South African collective) Rhino back once before we will do it again. In our area there are 370 pritvate ranches with Rhino, and our community effort involving an external security company and the TRT (tactical rhino team) and many other private individuals have tightened the noose, we have adopted a zero tolerance policy.
    All outfitters in SA love to sing the conservation song and like putting out there, what they believe private ranching in South Africa has done for Rhino conservation, well now is our time to prove what we are willing to put in as far as personal time and money goes.

    We have been given a big blow by poachers and rapists, but we are getting up and slowly collecting ourselves we were caught napping to be honest.. but most of us are awake now....

    Start community initiatives, it might seem silly but it starts with us knowing whats cooking in our area, neighbours need to start working together and stop being such typical "Afrikaners" as we so often call ourselves.
    The problem is current and it is very real.

    My very best always
  6. fhm3006

    fhm3006 AH Enthusiast

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    Ek hoor jou lied Jaco (i hear you)

    I respect your views. Did you also hear on Carte Blanche with the interview of that one TRT officer - he was offered by a high Govt Official 40 K to assist in poaching operations. Respect to him for refusing it, but i am sure the next guy will take it - to them it is a year's salary and me and you know how Africa works that side of the river... If we have such corruption high up in the Govt by the same people that is suppose to enforce the anti-poaching laws and protect the Rhino, i cannot see that the battle will be won anytime soon Jaco, and by the time we do win or make a positive concervation impact to the numbers, let us just pray it won't be too late.

    Are you in contact with anyone from the TRT? Will appreciate if you could pm me the details, or post here on AH.

    Respect !
  7. Rohan

    Rohan

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    I agree

    FHM, Unfortunately I agree with this entire post. It is sad. Demand determines everything, it is just like a demand for street drugs, there is a whole unit of armed and intelligent forces against the trade but it will be only be curbed and stunted but never stopped, and that is simply because of the demand for the product, counter-intelligence and brute-orce bares little weight for the solution to actually stopping the trade, but it has absolute value when considering that it is used for the purposes of slowing it down, discouraging, and even sowing dissension amongst the traders.

    And it is honourable that people at least are trying their best and putting their lives on the line without just calling it quits before the fact. Money is what is all about, as well as the ingrained perceptions and folk-laws of the market in Asia and wherever else in the world. Men have been exploiting and capitalising since the beginning and we will do so till the end, fortunately we are not all borne of the same and the majority of men are straight-up gentlemen. The majority of persons are straight-up people. One can never put a halt to traditional practice that is '1000' years old nor stop a social niche that is the core foundation of a culture (whatever it is), but what counts in life, in my opinion, is that we try and keep on trying to educate and meet a middle ground for all.

    Much easier said than done. Which is why I respect the officials who turn down bribes,and all the hands-on men and women who face the bullets and pangas of poachers for a crappy pay salary.

    I have only seen a Rhino once or twice in protected conservation parks, but never in the "wild" and I fear I never will see a true "wild" Rhino just being a Rhino the bush. My idea is that I would love to 'stumble' upon a Rhino in the bush one day while im out hunting or game-viewing etc because it is a free-roaming animal with little concern except to get keep an eye on me at that moment.

    The fact that the syndicates have taken the stubs of horns from live animals is a huge statement.

    Keep well all,
  8. Jaco Strauss

    Jaco Strauss SPONSOR AH Elite

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    "To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself."

    I will PM you a contact, unfortunatly I am not at liberty to post names and detail, I believe that you will understand.
    My very best always.

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