A rise in poaching over the last decade reduced the world’s population of white rhinos to 20,000. South Africa is home to the majority of them. 2016 saw a 10% drop in the number of white rhinos killed for their horns in South Africa. The trade of rhino horn has been illegal internationally for 40 years but was not banned in South Africa until 2009.
The government hoped the ban would reduce the demand for horn and horn products which would then reduce poaching. Government initiatives to enforce the ban are extremely expensive and require extensive training to combat poaching.
The world’s largest rhino rancher and conservationist, John Hume, opposes South Africa’s ban; he believes it is counterproductive and will not ultimately save the rhino. In May of last year, South Africa’s supreme court sided with him.
Hume has more than 1,300 rhinos on his property outside of Johannesburg. Through regular trimmings, which do not harm the rhino, Hume has stockpiled more than 5 tons of horn. Hume believes that the only way the rhino will survive is if it is bred and protected. The cost of protecting Rhinos is prohibitive so in order to mitigate the expense, Hume believes Rhino horn must be legal to sell. Humes current inventory is valued at more than $300 million. Rhino horn is more valuable than both gold and cocaine at $65,000 for 1 KG on the black market.