Monday, 4 September 2017

Rhino horn sales: banking on extinction

Paula Kahumbu: The sale of rhino horn in South Africa won’t help save rhinos, but it will benefit organised crime

Paula Kahumbu is CEO of the NGO Wildlife Direct and a campaigner for elephants and wildlife.

Friday 25 August 2017 06.05 BSTLast modified on Friday 25 August 2017 11.50 BST

South Africa has just launched the first ever legal rhino horn auction. If you are based in South Africa and would like to buy some rhino horn you can place your bid here.

This is not a government auction, although it is sanctioned by the South African government. It has been organised by private rhino rancher, John Hume, who took the government to court and won the right to sell 265 rhino horns weighing about 500 kg. Trade in rhino horn is illegal in most countries, but the black market value of one kilogram is said to be USD 100,000—more than the price of platinum.

The astronomical price of rhino horn is driven by demand in Asia that has fuelled the current epidemic of rhino poaching in South Africa. Rhino deaths from poaching have risen from almost zero ten years ago to more than 1,000 per year since 2013.

Rhinos are listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that horns cannot be legally taken out of South Africa into any other CITES member state. So this auction is targeting buyers in South Africa … even though there is no market there for rhino horn. What is going on?

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