A Closer Look at the Rhino Horn Poaching Trade

A rhino at risk

Most will agree that nature conservation is something that needs to be taken seriously. And, in most cases, the illegal poaching of animals has been brought under control to at least some degree. But one area of illegal poaching that is still a major concern is rhino poaching. In South Africa where roughly 80% of all rhinos can be found, the situation is threatening to reach a tipping point, and result is the total extinction of the species in the wild.

But the situation is not as simple as it may first seem. There is a complicated web around the illegal rhino horn trade, and making sense of it can be tricky, as it is far more complex than something like a Blackjack strategy is. In fact, even those tasked directly with fighting illegal rhino horn trade don’t understand all the most intricate aspects.

A Trade That’s Legal In South Africa

It should first be kept in mind that rhino horn trade is legal within the borders of South Africa. Many aren’t aware of this, but it happens to be the truth. Rhino horn trade was made illegal for many years, back in 2009. This was in response to the rampant illegal trade of rhino horn occurring throughout the early 2000s. The main source of the illegal trade was due to the value of rhino horn in Asian countries, where horns are used for medicinal and decorative purposes.

In 2009 a moratorium was placed on rhino horns domestically, which the government hoped would stem the illegal trade domestically. And, just to be clear, a moratorium is defined as a temporary ban. But this temporary ban lasted for only six years, and was overturned fairly recently in 2015.

Why was the decision overturned?

A rhino rancher named Johan Kruger directly challenged the moratorium in 2012, stating that the ban was massively hindering his ability to do business. He was soon joined in his lobbying by John Hume, the largest private owner of rhinos in the world. The two farmers won, and the temporary ban was overturned in 2015. Multiple attempts were made to reinstate the ban, but have failed.

Rhino Population On The Brink

Prior to 2008 the number of rhinos lost to poaching in South Africa, yearly, was about 25.  After this period that number jumped to an enormous 1000 annually. This number has remained steady since 2008, until the most recent years. The fact is that this number represents about the same amount of rhinos that are born in the wild.

In other words, the population of rhinos in the country is teetering on the brink, with every possibility that the animals could be hunted into extinction in the wild. The consensus is, as already said, that the vast majority of these horns are being shipped to Asia, where they are sold at enormously high prices. Word is that on the black market rhino horn can be sold for about $65,000 a kilogram.

What Is Being Done?

The problem is not unknown to the South African government, and conservationists in the area. It was suggested that at the time rhino horn trade was illegal, the value of the horns went up exponentially. It was suggested instead that if the trade was legal, that the value of the horns would come down dramatically, thus making hunting the horns much less lucrative.

The first legal online auction of rhino horns was held in late 2017. The auction drew worldwide attention, with activists even attacking the website and shutting it down. Opinions are it seems divided as to whether the strategy will work.

Last White Male Rhino Dies

As the battle for rhino extinction is fought in courts, and with online rhino horn auctions taking centre stage, the last male white rhino has passed away in captivity. This marks the end of the species; at least in it’s natural state. Two female white rhinos remain, and can be artificially inseminated. The species is, therefore, not extinct, but is literally on the very brink.

That a species has been brought to this point should be a stark reminder of just how serious nature conservation is. Hopes are high that the rhino horn poaching trade will soon be brought under control and this animal will be allowed to breed and in years to come and flourish in numbers.

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