Horn Trade? A Private Owners View

Wednesday 05 October 2016

Not all Private Rhino Owners are FOR a legal trade in rhino horn

There are still too many unknowns

Poaching is not about the animal poached, it is about organised crime


Following the the recent decisiton at the CITES CoP17 to reject a proposal from Swaziland to allow the country to sell it's stockpile of rhino horn, there have been many opions stated on the plusses and minuses of the decision.  The Private Rhino Owners Association would have us believe that all provate rhino owners were and indeed are in favour of legalising trade in rhino horn.

Ayesha Cantor is a private owner of rhinos. She runs the Kragga Kamma Game Park in South Africa's Eastern Cape, and here she explains why, despite being a private rhino owner, is against legalising a trade in rhino horn.  

We have read many articles and opinions on this topic, but we feel Ayesha makes some well thought out points.

A View From Ayesha Cantor, Private Rhino Owner

I am a private rhino owner and I am opposed to a legal trade in rhino horn, simply put, as it’s a way more complex matter than anyone can even grasp - here is why….

The easiest option for us as rhino owners would be to sell our horns and have the revenue to protect our rhino. It sounds so good ( and tempting ) on ‘paper’, but the reality of it all goes much deeper.

Some rhino owners have a substantial stockpile of rhino horn. The potential revenue would certainly help if not cover all protection costs.
Others, and I’m guessing the majority of private rhino owners, have just a few kilos at best. The potential income generated may very well only help cover protection costs in the short term.

This is all unknown at this stage as the finer details of just how much rand per kilo a private rhino owner can realistically expect is not on the table. I believe that a number of private owners who think that a legal trade is the way to go may just change their minds when they realise that what they actually get in their hands at the end of the day is nowhere near the black market figures we read about every day.

But by then it’s too late to cry foul as the deal is done…..

Once the initial horn is sold, some apu costs covered, the future revenue would be a fraction as only a few centimetres of horn can be harvested every 2 ( or so ) years…. A fraction of revenue compared to the initial entire horn.
Now what…..back to the current situation really right ?

In the meantime, a legal market in rhino horn has gained a few new customers. ‘’ Its legal now right, so I also want in.’’
Increasing demand to levels unkown – by the admission of all concerned parties.

As with tigers and bears, the sophisticated consumer will more than likely prefer ‘wild horn’ as the belief is that wild horn holds better properties than farmed horn. Even though farmed horn will find its place in the market, wild horn will more than likely become even more sought after than it is right now. The ‘Ferrari Factor’ on steroids….. ( those with the means prepared to pay whatever for the ‘real deal’ )

Maybe those who are standing to benefit the most from a legal trade in horn, the drivers behind the call to trade, can be considered selfish…..
So long as they can trade their massive stockpiles thus providing adequate security for their own rhino, who cares about the other 298 private rhino owners and their piddly stockpiles and their rhino…. To say nothing of other rhino range states in Africa and beyond…. ( as Kenya raised at CITES 17 yesterday )

Rhino poachers are criminals, criminals do not shop, they take… nothing cheaper than ‘free’ right…. If anything, as rhino owners have the means and get better at keeping their rhino safe, the harder it will be to poach the more the value of rhino horn will increase.
In a legal market - the more demand grows, the more the cost of protecting rhino will increase as the product becomes scarce….

A legal trade in an endangered /threatened species that has a slow reproductive rate can only lead to increased poaching. ( Were rhino to have a high reproduction rate like crocodile, producing hundreds of offspring as opposed to a handful in their lifetime, then yes, a legal trade would very well work. )

A legal trade (and farming of ) exists for a multitude of species: abalone/vicuna/African grey parrots etc yet poaching levels have increased massively and natural populations are under severe threat as never before.
A legal market creates an avenue for illegal products to be channelled through. If our authorities cannot begin to control legal trade in these ‘products’, how can we expect things to be any better with rhino horn…?

As to why other countries who don’t have rhino shouldn’t vote on rhino – take the African Grey parrot for example. It was the countries who had AG parrots and now no longer do due to poaching that put forward proposals to have African Grey parrots uplifted to Appendix i. The countries who still have parrots ( rapidly dwindling populations ) and are seemingly happy for their people to illegally remove them from the wild, that were against the upliftment.

The bottom line is that this poaching issue is not about rhino or pangolin or tiger/hornbills/elephant/lion etc but an issue of transnational organised crime.
Besides continuing demand reduction campaigns which are showing evidence of success albeit not enough at this point – authorities across the globe need to get together and work together to tackle this issue head on.

I do however admit to sometimes thinking, ‘’oh screw it lets do it – THIS is not working, surely THAT will’’ but then I start thinking of all these nitty grittys and I realise that trade has the potential to do more harm than good – there are just too many uncertainties and unknowns to jump into that boat….