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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs