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.