South Africa is considering a radical new tactic to save the rhinoceros from extinction, which involves calling for an end to a 40-year-old ban on buying and selling rhino horns.
South Africa is home to the world’s largest rhino population, but it is struggling to combat poachers.
Last year, around 1,175 of its rhinos were illegally killed.
Most were slain for their horn, which is highly prized in Asia where it is used in traditional medicine.
Rancher John Hume told Reuters he loses three or more rhinos a day.
“We have to change our tactics if we are going to expect to win the war,” he said.
Mr Hume supports a change of tactics to ensure the future of the critically endangered species.
He would like to see the global ban on trading in rhino horn, which was introduced in 1977, lifted and a carefully monitored, legal trade allowed.
RelatedFarming rhino horn
A rhino’s horn can regrow, leading to suggestions it could be harvested and legally sold.
Proponents claim legalising the trade of rhino horns would satisfy demand and reduce poaching, but The Australian Rhino Project opposes this idea.
“It is unproven and we are not convinced that is going to be effective at all,” Project CEO Ray Dearlove said.
The organisation is trying to ensure the survival of the rhino by establishing viable populations outside of South Africa.
The group is working to bring six rhinos to Australia, from South Africa, later this year in case rhinos become extinct in the wild.
Mr Dearlove doesn’t believe there is global backing for legalising the rhino horn trade.
“Mainly because of the uncertainty of whether it would have the desired affect of stopping the poaching and some how reducing the demand,” he said.
Conservation group, World Wildlife Fund Australia, fears legalising the trade could drive demand and encourage more poaching.
“Increasing demand for rhino horn will only lead to more and more animals being killed each year,” Fund national species manager Darren Grover said.
“While some people will buy legitimate product some people will also be attracted to illegally sourced rhino horn.”
Australia breeding success
Dubbo’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to three species of rhino, the greater one-horned rhino, the black rhino and the white rhino.
Last year the zoo was successful in breeding all three.
The CEO of Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Cameron Kerr, said it did not support legalising farming rhino.
“It will have significant issues for the management and care for rhinos if you go to an industrialised method of farming horn,” he said.
Mr Kerr, who is also director of the International Rhino Foundation, believes demand for rhino horn would outstrip legal supply for a very long time.
“Because of population growth, and it is fashionable at the moment not just for medicinal purposes but for status,” he said.
“Once you remove the stigma of illegal trade then it broadens it to a much larger group of people.”
He said past experiences with the dealings of other animal species, indicated that wild horns would become more valuable than farmed horns.
“If you think of fish, in certain parts of the world the value of wild caught fish is higher than farmed fish.”
RelatedA cash windfall
Legalising the trade would enable South Africa to sell off its valuable stockpile of rhino horns.
Dehorning rhinos, to make them less enticing to poachers, has created a horn stockpile of around 30 tonnes in South Africa.
It is suggested that the stockpile could fetch around $2.6 billions.
Money that could be put back into conservation.
The South Africa government will decide later this month whether to table a proposal to lift the ban when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species meets in Johannesburg in September.