Rhino poaching needs to be addressed from all possible angles

By Zuziwe    19-Sep-2012 14:12 UTC+02:00

Recent reports indicate that 100 rhinos were killed at Kruger National Park over the past two months, bringing the total number of poached rhinos this year to 381. Clearly, something needs to be done to save South African rhinos. Tightening security hasn’t made a difference. Therefore, other avenues need to be explored.

Several people have suggested rhino farming as a solution. It is unclear why this concept is being brushed off by our leaders. Legally selling rhino horn at a low price would quickly depreciate its value, thereby eliminating the need for poachers to spend thousands hunting and killing our rhinos.

However, it has been argued that legally selling rhino horn would put at risk the lives of people (those who use it as medication) who would have sought medical help. This makes sense but there remains some questions: Does banning rhino horn trading stop them from using rhino horn as medication? No. Should their choice to use ‘ineffective medication’ lead to the extinction of the South African Rhino? No.

All we know is that rhino horn is in demand at the moment and that is putting South African rhinos on the brink of extinction. We don’t have any evidence that rhino horn is being used as medication. Even if it is, we have no grounds to argue that it is ineffective. Our main concern is to save our rhinos. We don’t care about what buyers would do with its horn. There are shops which sell guns and bullets. Why are they allowed to sell weapons that are known to kill people if it is so wrong to sell rhino horn?

It has also been argued that South Africa does not have the “adequate control mechanisms” for a legal rhino horn trade. Our government should address this and devise an adequate control mechanism instead of permanently banning rhino farming.

Dehorning rhino seems like a gruesome act. One may argue that farming rhino to harvest its horn would be unethical. However, we eat beef and wear leather clothing everyday. How does rhino farming differ from cattle farming?

Michael Eustace wrote an interesting article at the beginning of this year. From his article one can see that there is absolutely no reason to ban the trade of rhino horn. If the horn is professionally removed, it regrows and the rhino doesn’t die. It continues reproducing offspring. Therefore, legal rhino farms would save the rhino species.

According to Michael’s article, South Africa has nearly 5000 rhino horns collected over many years. Also, the number of rhinos that die naturally can supply more horns (+-700) than those that are poached (+-500) annually. South Africa could legally supply nearly 1000 rhino horns for 19 years without killing any rhino. This would most probably reduce the number of poached rhinos. Authorities really need to take this into consideration before it is too late.

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