This is an emotional issue. Those on both sides of the fence are becoming more desperate and brazen by the day. With each (almost daily now) discovery of a hacked rhino carcass those of us concerned with the preservation of these animals are pulling out our hair trying to find the one solution that will put a conclusive end to the senseless slaughter.
Rhino horn and Rhino horn traditional medicine sold in Asia
I admire the ambitious approach of Rhino Reality that see celebrity-endorsed, communication campaigns as the best weapon in the long-term conservation of the rhino. They cannot be faulted, but on the downside, we don't have the time it will take to discredit centuries-old beliefs about the supposed uses of the rhino horn. Meanwhile the rest of us raise fences, enlist the help of the army and still others poison* the horns. These are temporary measures but we must all agree that more sustainable measures need to be developed and implemented.
I read with interest an article on the International Rhino Foundation website, which proposed that the rhino horn trade should be legalized. The author has gone to great lengths to substantiate his or her suggestions by thoroughly researching into the actual numbers. The author claims that Southern African national parks could, "supply the market with 676 horns a year from natural deaths alone." Based on a perhaps simplistic projection of percentages and ratio of natural deaths per annum versus the rhino population growth rate, the author nonetheless makes a compelling argument. But in the light of ineffective international bans, toothsome handshakes and backslapping for the cameras, I'm not convinced.
The fact remains that the reason why any atrocity is allowed to carry on is because someone, somewhere is getting rich because of it and somewhere someone is able to feed their family because of it. It would be too easy to dismiss the other side of the story so I won't do it here. The truth is that while people are hungry, while evil people get rich by perpetuating age-old lies, while some amongst us believe that ingesting rhino horn is the proverbial fountain of youth, while governments fail to adequately provide for their citizenry, the rhino will die.
What do you think?
*The barium-laced, non-lethal dye is not fit for human consumption due to the extreme bitterness of the mixture. It can cause vomiting or diahorrea if ingested but if properly treated, it will not result in death.