This week we’re going to focus on something very close to our hearts and about which we feel very strongly – the plight of the rhino in this country and actually, the world. And more specifically, the predicament of the “Man Who Bred 1000 Rhino” – conservationist, John Hume.
As I hope you already know, and as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our rhino are under siege. Government and international legislation (CITES – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) have conspired against them in a full and complete ban on trade in rhino horn. In a misguided attempt to save a species, we as humans have made a decision that has had exactly the opposite effect.
I know that this seems like a radical anti-conservation standpoint for those of you who do not understand the full story. So, let me spell it out for you. Then, please read the links I’ve posted below and please support this effort in any way possible. If you cannot spare any money to donate to this cause, then please share as widely as possible. Bear in mind that the cost of one good meal out a month for you and your loved ones could help save this species from extinction. An extinction that we are hurtling towards on our watch. Another extinction we have caused – whether by our actions, or maybe worse, our inaction.
To trade or not to trade – that is the question!
To many on the other side of this debate – the “pro-trade/no trade” debate – the man featured in this article and this plea, John Hume, is a greedy capitalist who only thinks of himself and amassing more money. To those of us who know him, and who have worked in close proximity to his endangered species breeding projects, this could not be further from the truth. Granted, he has made a lot of money in his lifetime. One could even say that at one point, money was his “god”. But he has worked tirelessly and selflessly for the past 18 years or more, focusing on breeding and building a rhino population on his farms. This was in addition to other endangered species such as Sable and Roan antelope. He eventually became known as the biggest private rhino breeder in the world.
The cost of conserving rhino
He has carried that cost entirely on his own shoulders from the beginning. He has never made a profit from breeding rhino. It is a little-known fact that the monthly costs have run into millions of rands. And as the rhino poaching scourge took on epic proportions (thanks to the decision to ban trade in rhino horn, which of course made the commodity all the more enticing), it has cost him more and more. The “private army” mentioned in this article is indeed that. John has been paying R1 million a month to hire an army of anti-poaching security personnel. Because the trade in rhino horn is so lucrative, he also had to regularly change these companies to ensure no insider could profit from protecting his rhino.
And the ultimate cost…
Years of fighting not only poachers but also our government – who have steadfastly (and illegally) refused to follow Constitutional Court orders allowing him (and others) to trade domestically in rhino horn. That is what has led him to this point. A man once worth hundreds of millions of rands is now about to run out of money.
As you will read in the link: Without urgent alternative security solutions, his rhino will be left to the mercy of poachers, which will result in an inevitable bloodbath.
Let me digress briefly here and explain why we feel that trade in rhino horn is so important. It is not, contrary to popular belief so that he (and other private breeders) can make money out of the breeding of rhino. It is not, as some believe, a vile way of making money because you’re killing your rhino to do so. Not at all.
Is he just an uncaring profit monger?
It is a sustainable way of feeding the demand for rhino horn, which does not seem to diminish at all. This could be one species, at least, that we could save by meeting the demand and not allowing the animals to be slaughtered for it. A rhino horn is made of keratin (hair) and can be cut off in a safe and painless way. Just like your nails, it grows back.
If only those on the other side of this debate would see this and understand it. But they don’t. They are adamant that people like John Hume want to “kill their rhino to make money”. They don’t understand that if John was allowed to at least sell the horn he has been forced to stockpile over many years (he’s been cutting his rhino’s horns to keep them as safe as possible for years now), that would at the very least pay towards the breeding effort, their upkeep and their security.
Cut the horn and save the animal
It would not make him a ton of profit since he has already spent hundreds of millions on this conservation effort. What it would do, is allow his thousands of rhino, and the rest, to live safe and happy lives while producing the horn that is still so sought after, and earning some money towards their upkeep. One rhino could safely and painlessly produce horn up to eight times during its lifespan. This is the concept that we so desperately need the anti-trade activists to understand before it’s too late.
While we argue, thousands of rhino die…
Those fighting and arguing against this are doing so while watching hundreds of rhino being horrifically slaughtered every year. These people are scared that we will open the floodgates to rampant poaching and slaughter of our wild animals. Well, guess what, folks. We’re already there. Doesn’t it make sense then, to try a method which is proven to keep the animals alive? To recoup some of the losses at least, in monetary terms? And to legally supply the people who believe that this is a “must-have”?
The Asian myth that is killing our rhino
On that point, there is a strong drive to debunk the myth of rhino horn being a supposed aphrodisiac, or a symbol of great wealth, or having any of the medicinal benefits that the Asian population have cooked up for themselves. But I fear it will take another generation before we can even remotely start to relax about the need for rhino horn.
Before we get to that point, we will have lost an entire species, yet again. If we don’t do something now; if we don’t take the decision to sacrifice the horn and save the species, we will have only ourselves to blame. Could you live with that?
Please – do anything you can, before it’s too late. We beg you.
This is a very sensitive topic, we know. But it is one that is too important not to discuss and not to find a workable solution. We would really appreciate your feedback and your participation on this one.
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Until next time!