Take just a moment to answer the question "should rhino horn be sold" before reading the rest of this article.
In a recent survey, more than 80% of people quickly responded "no". Are you in that 80%? If you are, then what are the assumptions underpinning your no response? Perhaps it's got something to do with issues of poaching, and rhino as an endangered species?
Endangered species around the planet are usually on the endangered list for one of two reasons. They've either been hunted to the point of being almost extinct, or their habitat has been progressively destroyed.
So the question is, how do you avoid a species from becoming extinct? Many professionals respond with the same answer: "Find a way to farm them".
So, did you know that rhino are being farmed?
A rhino breeder in South Africa is planning an online auction of rhino horns to capitalise on a court ruling that opened the way to domestic trade despite an international ban imposed to curb poaching.
The sale of rhino horns by breeder John Hume, will be used to “further fund the breeding and protection of rhinos”, according to an auction website.
Hume has more than 1,500 rhinos on his ranch and spends over $170,000 a month on security for the animals, in addition to veterinary costs, salaries and other expenses, the auction website said.
“Each rhino’s horn is safely and regularly trimmed by a veterinarian and capture team to prevent poachers from harming them,” it said, adding that Hume has a stockpile of more than six tonnes of rhino horns.
The auction has been permitted by a ruling from South Africa’s constitutional court in April against a 2009 ban on the domestic trade. An international ban has been in place since 1977.
Rhino breeders believe poaching would be undercut by a regulated trade in rhino horns, though critics say such a trade will encourage poaching, which has occurred at record levels in the past decade.
Opponents of a legal trade also argue that any exported horns would be hard to monitor and illegally obtained horns would be laundered into the legal market, defying global agreements to protect threatened rhino populations.
Hume and other breeders counter that a trade ban has not worked and that alternative policies, including a legal market, should be pursued.