Rhino Ranches Take New Approach to Prevent Poaching

More than 1,000 rhinos have been killed for their horns in South Africa alone since 2006, reports Peter Gwin of National Geographic. These horns are prized for their use in traditional “medicines” throughout Asia – fetching $33 – $133 a gram. That’s double the price of gold, sometimes higher even than the price of cocaine. And despite the arrest of more than 200 poachers in South Africa last year (and the deaths of 22 more), the illegal trade seems to have no end in sight.

Poachers will hire “trackers” to follow rhinos until dusk, when it’s easier for them to evade the authorities. These trackers will radio the position of the rhinos, and the poachers will move in with high-powered rifles, killing the rhinos, sawing off their horns, and leaving the carcasses for park rangers and scavengers to find in the morning.

And the once-promising progress on ending poaching forever is fading. In 2007, only 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa. It’s gone up every year since – up to 333 in 2010, and over 400 in 2011. This distressing reality is forcing conservationists to look for new solutions, and new ways to protect South Africa’s rhinoceroses.

John Hume is a game farmer who owns more than 700 rhinos. He’s part of a group of entrepreneurs who believe that there are humane ways to satisfy the demand for rhino horn without harming the animals.

“We take wool from sheep, why not horn from rhinos?” Hume asked National Geographic. “If you cut the horn about three inches above its base, it will grow back in two years. That means there is a never ending supply of rhino horn if we’re smart enough to keep the bloody animals alive.”

Hume is frustrated with South African laws that require hunters to kill rhinos in order to export the horns as a trophy. He explains a few reasons for this law:

Among the misconceptions, Hume says, is that ivory and horn are the same. Ivory is an elephant’s tooth, while rhino horn is keratin, similar to a horse’s hoof. When an elephant’s tusk is severed, the nerve inside can become infected, killing the animal. Also, darting an elephant is much more dangerous than darting a rhino, because of its greater size and the protectiveness of its herd.

He also disputes the charge from conservationists that the legal and humane harvesting of rhino horn will simply encourage poachers. He believes as more legal horn enters the market, poachers will be driven out of the business by decreasing profits – eventually it just won’t be worth risking the jail time. “The fundamental difference is that poachers go after rhino horn for easy short-term profit. Farmers are in it for years of steady returns.”

This approach is, of course, frowned upon by many conservationists. They don’t want to encourage the horn trade. One way that they’re trying to discourage poachers is by cutting or removing rhinos’ horns to remove any incentive for poachers to kill the animals.

What do Care2 readers think? Are rhino ranches inhumane? Is the alternate solution of de-horning wild rhinos to discourage poachers any better? Share your thoughts in the poll and comments below.


Related Stories:

Western Black Rhino Declared Extinct

Rhino Accidently Killed In Demo Aimed To Stop Poachers

Wild Rhinos Get GPS Implants To Deter Poachers

Photo credit: Brandon Daniel


W. C
W. Cabout a year ago


William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

Liliana Garcia
Liliana G4 years ago

Marcia M: Could you list the "civilized societies"? Thanks.

Marcia Moore
Marcia Moore4 years ago

Looks like it's a matter of time before drones will be used to monitor civilized societies, even large events to protect the public. Why wouldn't they work to protect our endangered wildlife from terrorists/criminals, let's call them what they are, poachers sounds like fluff when you consider what they are doing. Shows you how they get below the radar by sending the trackers in, wait for the GPS concordants and then come in for the quick kill.
There also needs to be some serious media education in places where people hold onto ideas that have no basis no more than some of the voodoo practices, all based on ignorance and superstition. Keratin, for God's sake show them they might as well be chewing on their toenails. That's just how stupid such a practice is. Slap some of those posters around the towns and villages!

sharyn w.
sharyn w4 years ago

I want Rhino's to live. But how many times can you sedate such a large animal without some negative effects. Rhino's need their horns for defending themselves and their territory. They use their horn to dig for water in dry water beds during drought. They use their horns in the same way for digging up roots when food is scarce. What about the mental and emotional trauma on top of the physical trauma when their horn has been shortened and/or removed. Who's going to do the horn shortening? Are there going to be any competent skilled professionals in Rhino horn shortening available to do the procedure? Or just any rancher,ranch hands,and/or just anybody with a saw,ax,machete etc? I can think of many more questions about the feasibility of this idea that are far worse then what I already stated. The intentions 'could' be considered good for the Rhino, but most of us have heard the expression "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" even without a financial incentive(profit from Rhino horns).The thought and/or cost of what the Rhino's will endure having this done is just deplorable and sickening.

Ewelina Grobelna
Ewelina Grobelna4 years ago

who voted yes??????????????????? how about EDUCATING PPL rather than feeding their stupidity? Do you want same lot for rhinos that will be farmed and mistreated as chickens are in teh mass production???? because that's what it will be. You think ppl who poach care enough about the animal to treat it with care on the farm? they will barely feed just enough to get teh horn! and will not care if they suffer or not! ONLY education will make ppl stop being thoughtless monsters not aproval of their actions via legalizing it......

Someone there behind creating the law just waits to MAKE HUGE MONEY on animals by CRIPPLING THEM!!!

Fiona Stonehouse
Fiona Stonehouse4 years ago

Surely we have the technology to clone this substance. This would be a lucrative business venture as well as giving the rhino a better chance at survival

Randall Herzon
Randall Herzon4 years ago

There are private game parks or reserves throughout South Africa that do not allow hunting and are fenced off to prevent intruders. They sell property to people around the world who want to live or vacation in safe areas and appreciate wildlife. These game reserves range from 4000 to 27000 acres (1600 to 11000 Hectares). Many of these game reserves have wide range of species safely living on them. Others such as Gondwana even have the Big 5 (Lions, Leopards, Cheetah, Elephants and Rhino). The conservationists and governments should get together and relocate all the Black Rhino and a large percentage of the White Rhino to these private game reserves where they can live, breed in peace with nothing but a Camera pointed in their direction. It may be the only way to save any of these endangered and threatened species.

Linda L.
Linda L5 years ago

Dehorning wild rhinos isn't going to make poachers stop poaching. If anything, they will kill the animals anyway out of spite because they are angry their profits are being taken away. I believe the ranchers have a good idea. Reduce or remove the profit from the illegal market and the poachers will eventually stop because it's no longer worth the risk involved as stated in the article.

Czerny A.
Czerny A5 years ago

Ideally, the consumption of rhino horn shouldn't be happening in the first place; but if an interim step removes the profit motive and stops poaching, it might be a useful idea. Meanwhile, Asians should be educated on their ignorant "medical" practices.