By John Hume
In 1960, an accepted estimate of Black rhino numbers in Africa to the north of us was 100,000. The more numerous they were in many countries of Africa the easier they were to poach and the greater number would have been poached in any year. A total of 160,520 were possibly poached between 1960 and 2011 with a breeding rate of 5% per annum.
In 1960 it was estimated that the Northern white rhino numbered between 2,000 and 4,000. They have now all been poached. It is also possible that the demand varied during these 45 years which would also have affected the rate of poaching from year to year. When the numbers of Black rhino in Africa were dwindling in the early to mid 2000’s, the Vietnamese started "pseudo trophy hunting" in South Africa when they realized that they could do so legally.
Up to this point, rhino horn in South Africa from a farmer or an illegal dealer’s point of view was fairly inconsequential, but certainly farmers like me collected horns from mortalities and accidental knockoffs. At that stage I was not a particularly large rhino farmer, but I sold 84kg of horns with an export permit nr MPB11552 from Mpumalanga parks Board. During this time I was approached by many people looking for rhino horn and it was obvious that if I had been prepared to sell it without a permit, I could have done so over and over. So it is logical that many farmers with rhino horn stockpiles sold them both legally and illegally. Advertisements and offers to purchase rhino horn were still printed in popular game and hunting magazines as recently as September 2007.
- In 2008, 2009 and 2010 the government dramatically cut the quantity of permits issued for "pseudo hunts" due to abuse of the system and public outcry.
- On the 1st June 2007 ToPS Regulations were implemented but ToPS permits could only be issued as from June 2008.
- On 13 February 2009, the national moratorium on the trade in rhino horn became law in South Africa. Notwithstanding this there were farmers who illegally hunted and also illegally dehorned and continued to supply the Asian market.
During the latter part of 2008 I started buying rhino to stock my North West farms and of the 365 adult rhinos I purchased up to 2011, 131 had been dehorned by their previous owners. The date of these dehorning I estimate were all prior to mid 2010. I am almost certain that all of these horns were supplied to the illegal market.
THEN THE GAME CHANGED:
- There were many arrests during 2010 and 2011 and even though these arrests were put under the banner of poachers by the police and the media, most of them were actually for illegal dealings in rhino horn.
- Provincial authorities started insisting on the letter of the law as far as ToPS regulations go.
- Britain has spent an enormous amount of money stopping their rhino horns (of long dead animals) from getting to China. Britain is apparently persuading Europe to do the same. There have now been many arrests in America for dealing in rhino horn where it is still legal to deal within a state but not to cross a state border. However, according to NBC there have been arrests and confiscation of many horns.
The South African government is making it more and more difficult for Vietnamese traders to get a permit to legally hunt a rhino, which at least will be a bull. With the arrests of various individuals during 2010 and 2011 it became public knowledge that dealing illegally in rhino horn was dangerous and less people did it. These actions were the cause of less and less horns getting to the East. The effect is logical and easy to see: MORE ORDERS TO THE POACHERS!
Whilst governments can stop their old horns from getting to the east, they cannot stop the poacher from coming onto my farm or entering the Kruger Park, nor can they apparently stop the poacher from taking my recently poached horn to the Mozambique coast and sending it to the East.
The 160,520 slaughtered rhino in the last 51 years equates to approximately 3,000 a year which we could still currently supply from our stockpiles and people who wanted to dehorn their rhino. In other words we could supply 3,000 horns from rhinos that are either long dead or not killed and continue to grow horns for the future.
Unfortunately we do not have a lot of time as poachers, illegal and legal hunters are busy slaughtering the very rhino that could save the species.
Some people are calling it the Rhino War. Rhinos live in the bush and no bush war has ever been won without the local population’s co-operation. Legalization is probably the only way we will get our marginalized populations' co-operation in saving the rhino.