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

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Nielsen's, Sina Weibo Team Up for Closer Look at Chinese Social Media

    US-based rating agency reaches deal with China's Twitter-like service to gauge marketing effectiveness on platform which has more than 200 million users

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora