There is ongoing debate around the trade of rhino horn and here Andrew Venter, who heads up one of the most significant environmental NGO’s in the country and who has been closely involved with rhino conservation, gives his view.
In my opinion, the debate around whether to trade rhino horn or not, comes down to a simple question. Do we want this species to survive or are we happy to let it slowly drift to extinction? If we want the species to survive then we need to use every option available to us to enable and support the fight for their survival. If we don’t, then we can continue to debate the issue, generate academic papers and put up billboards telling consumers that rhino horn really doesn’t work. The criminal syndicates enjoy our debates, read the papers with interest and laugh at the billboards, whilst focussing on improving their ability to poach rhino. Local syndicates feed the horn into the international market, meeting monthly orders for an average of more than 150 horns. This is a highly structured and lucrative trade, driven by entrenched cultural beliefs and status behaviour. These beliefs and this behaviour will take at least one generation to change. Harvesting and trading rhino horn would allow rhino custodians to sustainably fund the high cost of the security measures required to protect their populations. This may be a short term cost, if the behaviour change movement achieves a miracle. However, every indication is that there is no miracle out there.