News / Africa

S. Africa Proposes Legal Auction of $1B Worth of Rhino Horn

Part of a shipment of 33 rhino horns seized by Chinese customs agents are displayed at news conference, Hong Kong, Nov. 15, 2011.
Part of a shipment of 33 rhino horns seized by Chinese customs agents are displayed at news conference, Hong Kong, Nov. 15, 2011.
Anita Powell
South Africa is seeking permission from conservation authorities to sell off some $1 billion worth of stockpiled rhino horn. The move, officials have said, may thwart black-market sales of the valuable, but illegal commodity, which has gained popularity in Asia for its alleged medicinal uses. That hunger for rhino horn has decimated South Africa’s population of the rare and endangered animal.  

South African officials say they want to open a new front in the ongoing war against illegal rhino poaching.
 
Already, the government has deployed soldiers to fight poaching in Kruger National Park. They’ve reached out to the government of neighboring Mozambique to stop cross-border poaching, and have signed agreements with major rhino horn markets Vietnam and China to stop black-market rhino horn sales.

Officials have even tried de-horning live rhinos to make them less attractive to poachers and opening a rhino orphanage in a secret location.

Still, 461 rhinos have been killed this year alone, according to the most recent government statistics. If rhino killings continue at that pace, they could exceed last year’s record death toll of 668 rhinos.

So this time, they say they want to take a different tack, by focusing on the simple laws of supply and demand.

South Africa possesses a stockpile of more than 16,000 kilograms of rhino horn. At today’s market prices -- which value rhino horn over gold -- that’s worth about $1 billion.
 
South Africa Department of Environment spokesman, Albi Modise, says the government is putting together a proposal to sell their stockpile legally - a move that could flood the market with legal product. They’ll present the proposal to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 2016.
 
“The research that’s been done tells us that there’s a huge demand for the rhino horn in the Asian countries. And that the absence of a legal market has actually driven people to the underground black market," Modise said.  "Hence the black market has been thriving, because it has been meeting the demand and needs of the particular market. So we’re trying to say, ‘if there is a demand for the rhino horn, let’s rather be the ones to drive it in an open, regulated fashion, than to drive those who want the rhino horn to go into the black market, which has vastly been fuelling the ongoing scourge of poaching that South Africa has been experiencing in the recent years.’”

He says environmental officials hope to use the profits to help conservation efforts.
 
Modise says the rationale behind the sale is simple: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em - and then beat them at their own game.

“We actually are saying that we are very worried that if we don’t do something legal, we might end up with our rhinos being wiped out. That we’d rather be doing something proactively, and learn from that from that proactive, measured and regulated opening, and take lessons from it while also embracing principles of sustainable development," he said. "For us, really, it is to say, we could sit here and say, ‘we don’t want to open trade,’ but then lose our rhinos to the black market. Or we could take the black market head-on and open the legal market and try to compete in a very competitive fashion with the black market, and consequently with the hope that we would be able to drive down the price.”
 
Jo Shaw, rhino coordinator for WWF South Africa, says her conservation group is not convinced. She says the group has recently done a study that shows that demand may outstrip even a large supply: the study found that the demand in Vietnam is roughly five times larger than the current market base.

“We remain unconvinced that a legal international trade in rhino horn is a feasible approach at this point in time, given a number of concerns that would need to be addressed," she said. ..."I think it’s dangerous to view the idea of provision of a legal supply as cutting out the illegal black market chain being operated by sophisticated criminal syndicates.”

The horn is reputed to have medicinal benefits in Asian traditional medicine - among them, as an aphrodisiac, a hangover remedy and even a cancer cure. Those theories have been largely dispelled by scientific research.  But that hasn’t stopped Asian consumers from snapping up the rare product at the whopping price of $65,000 a kilogram - money that South African officials say they want to use to help conserve the rapidly dwindling population.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs