Legalize The Trade In Rhino Horns?


I’ve written a lot about the plight of South Africa’s wild rhino population of late. It’s under concerted and brutal attack from ruthless, well organized poachers who make a killing – quite literally – by selling the butchered animals’ chopped-off horns on illegal Asian markets.

This year’s rhino death count in South Africa now stands at 309.

Earlier this year, the country’s government said that it was considering a complete moratorium on all rhino hunting. Authorities currently issue a limited number of licenses to hunt rhinos legally and export their horns as trophies under the regulations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

Some people have argued that poisoning the horns of living rhinos would deter poachers and recently this strategy has been used in practice for the first time. An informal poll seems to suggest that Care2 readers are somewhat undecided on how they feel about this approach, although, if anything, the numbers lean toward supporting it.

Now, yet another tactic is being touted: legalizing the trade in rhino horns. Do you think that will stop the slaughter?

This week South Africa’s Department of Water and Environmental Affairs announced that they would commission a study on the global rhino horn market and the feasibility of legalizing the trade. Spokesperson Albie Modise said that any funds raised through the sale of government-owned stockpiles would go towards rhino conservation efforts.

Andrew Rossaak, the chairperson of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, believes that this research initiative will help to create “a clear understanding of the demand of horns overseas.” Proponents of the idea argue that banning the trade has failed and that “tried and tested capitalist remedies” should be given a chance.

The Private Rhino Owners’ Association of South Africa also supports legalization. According to its chairperson, Pelham Jones, “we would like to see the legitimate trade of horns from rhinos that have died from age, fighting or relocation.” He says “farmers are sitting on huge stockpiles of horns… we can meet a short-term demand by releasing them and run an education campaign in the process.”

On the other side of the debate, critics believe that legalization would create a demand that could not be met.

Clearly the situation has reached a crisis point, but will legalizing the global trade in rhino horns put an end to the poaching epidemic? Or will it simply open the flood gates and make things even worse? What do you think?

Andreas is a book shop manager and freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath


Related Stories:

Will Poisoning Rhino Horns Stop Poaching?

Stem Cells Could Save Highly Endangered Species

Rhino Poachers Strike Again


Photo from: Stock.Xchng

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Phyl M.
Bu M.2 years ago

Never allow the killing of animals for human greed.

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton3 years ago

These people wouldn't be killing them, if there was no place who is paying. This is a poor country they would sell your mother if they had a buyer. PROSECUTE THE BUYERS!!!

Patricia Bacon
Pat Bacon3 years ago

How can a person even think of legalizing the sale of Rhino horns? What a horrible shame to kill one of these magnificent animals just for their horn to be sold to natives who still believe in Voodoo or what ever they practice.I think these natives need to learn how to be real human beings. I have no respect for these people who are cruel and ignorant and can't find a way to take care of themselves and their families. And so they kill these magnificent animals to practice magic with the horns or sell them for [probably peanuts. They need to move into the current century.

Andrea A.
Andrea A.3 years ago

Nooo. Thanks for sharing.

jackie w.
jackie w.3 years ago

Absolutely NOT. Legalising rhino horn is more or less saying that horn is OK and the so-called therapeutic benefits are true. It's ridiculous. I think poisoning the horn is a great way to go.

Carole R.
Carole R.4 years ago

This is amazing in 2011. I thought the world was at least trying to move in the right direction. Aparently not.

Gianna Macias
Gianna Macias4 years ago

This is one of the worst ideas I have heard in a long time.

Carrie Nissiotis
Carrie Nissiotis4 years ago

this is the bottom line - leave their horns alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it is not the humans horn or useful to us so leave it!!!! did everyone suddenly forget what ABSA fought for, the pain he went through because of a sick species called humans.

Gloria W.
Gloria W.4 years ago

I agree with Joy W.

Cristian Prisacariu

Strange, what would one person do with a rhino horn? Is the rest of the animal used for meat, or something? It looks to me that, again and again, the strange and greedy demands from the western society are destroying nature all over, and using people in poor countries as slaves. The same as with diamonds, gold, or oil... What would a civilized westerner do with a rhino horn...?