Concern Grows Around Role of Rhino Horn ‘Suppliers’ in South Africa


Rhino horn suppliers share the blame for fueling the rhino crisis.

Questions are being raised regarding rhino horn “suppliers” and their effect on illegal rhino horn trafficking.

Fueling the demand for rhino horn

Zimbabwean environmentalist and prestigious Goldman Prize winner Raoul du Toit, explained in an in-depth article published by Vietnam’s Thanh Nien Daily that rhino horn suppliers in South Africa “are also to blame” for fueling the demand for rhino horn.

Many people in South Africa are also to blame for the poaching crisis, including a number of rhino owners who have illegally sold horns that they have derived from their rhinos.

A similar view appears to be shared by renowned rhino horn and ivory trade expert Dr. Tom Milliken of the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, who recently told Thanh Nien Daily that he disagrees with South African game farmers lobbying for “legal trade” in rhino horn and pointed out there is no one to “negotiate” with – except criminal syndicates.

I do not agree with the views of the farmers who only seem to be looking at this issue from the viewpoint of a supply they think they can offer. None of them are talking to the governments on the consumption side of the equation and all of those countries, including China, Vietnam and Thailand, have internal trade bans in place.

So who do they negotiate with – the criminal syndicates driving the illegal trade now?

This echoes a statement made earlier this year by CITES Chief of Enforcement, John Sellar, who said via the Independent Online that the only markets that exist for rhino horn are illegal, and that rhino horn trade depends upon the exploitation of families at their most vulnerable.

Criminals are preying upon the sufferers of what is one of today’s most horrendous diseases … exploiting sufferers and their relatives at a time of their lives when they’re essentially facing a debilitating and often terminal condition.

It’s like telling someone who has lung cancer to chew their fingernails.

Dr. Milliken further notes that there is “growing pressure” to declare a moratorium on rhino hunting in South Africa, in an effort to crack down on exploitation of trophy hunt loopholes.

Those bent on illegal trade keep finding loopholes or work with criminal elements in the sport hunting industry to evade controls.

Humane Society International (HSI) agrees that rhino horn supplies need to be cut off, as part of an overall rhino conservation strategy that includes demand reduction and law enforcement.

HSI recommends that South Africa’s legal trade loopholes need to be closed, exports of rhinos from South African ranches to rhino horn consumer countries need to be stopped, and that private rhino horn stockpiles need to be managed transparently and “preferably destroyed.”

Whetting the rhino horn appetite

Research into South Africa’s rhino horn trade policy suggests that the appetite for rhino horn continues to be whetted by intentional leakage of private rhino horn stockpiles from South Africa into the illegal market.

In 2009, TRAFFIC found that five provinces in South Africa failed to provide private stockpile data to CITES.1

For the Free State, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and Western Cape, which collectively hold 20% of the private sector rhinos, no data were available.

TRAFFIC further noted that “significant volumes” of private rhino horn stockpiles are undocumented and vulnerable to illegal trade, concluding that South Africa’s “control policy for rhino horns is inadequate”.

Learn more

For further reading, check out:

1. Milliken, T., Emslie, R.H., Talukdar, B. (2009). African and Asian Rhinoceroses – Status, Conservation and Trade. CoP15. CITES Secretariat, Geneva, Switzerland.

Image © Saving Rhinos LLC

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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