If anyone were to conduct a survey on what constitutes the gravest danger to the survival of the rhinoceros in Africa the results, in all likelihood, would show that most people believe that it is the threat posed by poachers.
The shocking truth, in my humble opinion, is that it is this perception which in itself poses the greatest threat in that the real causes for concerns are, in the main, being ignored or sidelined while a symptom of bad management is being blamed instead.
Last night Blue Label Telecoms hosted an evening designed to highlight the plight of the rhino and raise funds for those who are trying to save these magnificent beasts from extinction. It was attended by many celebrities including Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, Derek Watts and Bruce Fordyce.
The organisers began with horrific films, no other way to describe them, by producer Roland Vincent, which demonstrated just how horrendous the slaughter of rhinos is. The crack of a rifle followed by the sight of its terrible impact on the animal were more than most could bear.
Lombard also included a short film about a place called The Ark, a huge reserve, where they are hoping to house large numbers of rhinos among many other species of animals.
The films and other information can be accessed on the website Africa Cries.
The second part of the evening was a presentation by John Hume one of, if not, the largest private breeder of rhinos in the world. It was from him that we were to gain insight as to why, despite the massive outcry across the world, these animals are headed for extinction.
It was also from him that we were given tangible solutions to the problem and how a far brighter prognosis can be achieved.
The main problem seems to be the following: While the Far East continues to demand ever greater amounts of rhino horn the legislation governing those who farm, or look after these animals, precludes them from profiting substantially out of it. In other words at a time when rhino horn is more valuable than gold and cocaine the people from whom it is sourced are unable to derive a fraction of the benefit that the poachers are currently getting.
Hume explained that a dead rhino is twice as valuable as a live one and with the rewards being so high for illegal trade, poachers are always going to be willing to risk their lives to obtain it. This as opposed to farmers who see the enormous challenges and expense in housing and protecting rhinos but not profiting from its most lucrative market, that of the rhino horn.
The conservationist told the gathering that not only is it possible to rebuild rhino populations but even to repopulate the rest of Africa. This is however subject to legislation which makes promoting rhino attractive to the private sector. If regard is had to previously disadvantaged farmers and communities who need to migrate to the cities for work then here is an opportunity for building up local industry and regaining self-esteem.
Poachers are not the primary or even secondary cause of the devastation of the rhino but simply the product of an extremely valuable resource being very badly managed. If legislation opens the way to incentivising the private sector the role of poachers, and certainly their impact on numbers, will be vastly reduced. In addition rhino horn when removed by a vet is painless and grows back while those taken by poachers are, generally, done without any regard for the animal.
According to Hume, who knows what he is talking about, the future of the rhino is still in our hands.
As Mark Levy, chief executive of Blue Label, put it — while everything can be housed in today’s virtual world let’s not make valuable treasures such as the rhino only available to our kids in that artificial reality.
In order to assist readers further, and clarify where I may have been mistaken, I would urge you to visit Hume’s website:
And the Independent European Daily Express in support of legalising trade