POLL: Should the ban on rhino horn trade be lifted?

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Two South Africans who farm rhinos on game ranches appeared in court today in Pretoria seeking to overturn the country’s ban on the domestic rhino horn trade.

John Hume and Johan Kruger argue that the ban, which has been in force since 2009, is unconstitutional. And they claim it has contributed to the recent sharp rise in rhino poaching in South Africa.

South Africa is home to an estimated 19,700 rhinos, about 80 percent of the world’s population, but last year poachers killed 1,215 of them, up from just 13 in 2007.

International trade in rhino horns has been banned since 1977, but smugglers sell the horns in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia, where they’re touted as hangover cures and aphrodisiacs. They’re also used in traditional Chinese medicine.

A rhino in South Africa’s Kruger National Park is tranquilized to implant it with an electronic tracking chip. Last year, poachers killed more than 1,200 rhinos in the country. Photograph by Foto24, Gallo Images/Getty

Hume and Kruger contend that rhino horn is a renewable resource since a horn can be painlessly cut off. And they say that a legal domestic trade in horn would depress prices and discourage poaching, as well as allow proceeds to go toward conservation. They also favor lifting the international ban.

The counter argument conservationists make is that a legal trade would simply allow poached rhino horn to be passed off as legal horn, circumventing trade controls and encouraging poaching.

Coexisting legal and illegal trades would “wipe out rhinos even faster,” Karen Trendler, of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a South Africa-based conservation organization devoted to protecting threatened species, told a National Geographic blogger in July.

A recent study by economists at the University of Pretoria found that the demand for rhino horn is independent of price, meaning people will buy it no matter how expensive it gets. Vietnam, in particular, is driving the illicit trade. The country’s upper-middle class is booming—and people want rhino horn as a status symbol.

“The combination of these factors has pushed the demand to all-time high levels,” says James Blignaut, one of the study’s authors.

The civil case in South Africa comes at a critical time, as next year’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will be considering a proposal from South Africa to lift the international ban on the rhino horn trade.

South Africa’s minister of environmental affairs, Edna Molewa, refused to lift the domestic ban earlier this year at the farmers’ request, though Molewa has said in the past that a legalized trade within South Africa could help combat poaching.

Hume, who owns one of the largest rhino farms in the world, with more than 1,000 rhinos, has been systematically dehorning his rhinos for years.


His reported four-ton stockpile of horn is worth around $235 million, based on today’s black market prices. If the ban is lifted, he and other private rhino owners stand to reap large profits.

This article was first published by National Geographic on 22 Sep 2015.

We invite you to share your opinion whether the ban on rhino horn trade should be lifted? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page:

Should the ban on rhino horn trade be lifted?

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Supertrooper

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Melloney Strudwick

This horn is just the same as a horse hoof etc, so sell crushed FAKE stuff for medicines, no one will think it worth their while if it costs mere pennies! Flood the markets make it worthless.

Henk Mienie

FARM WITH IT A.S.A.P.

Victor Hoffmann

For those who voted yes? YOUR A SCUMBAG AND SHOULD BE SHOT!

Debra Morris-Flagg

The only thing that needs a rhinoceros horn is a rhinoceros!

Robin Jenkins

Only people with no heart would hunt or poach animals. The same should be done to them.

Susan Frudd

Never should it be lifted…..

Karen Crawford

Should the ban on rhino horn be lifted ? NO NEVER !

Simon Tucker

I find some of these polls a little disingenuous: of course the ban should stay in place. A more pertinent questions is "should the rest of the world impose sanctions on Vietnam for failing to prevent the illegal trade in rhino horn in their country?"

Chloe Ahern

never lift the ban it is aninal creulty

Leigh Lofgren

Tell those two creeps and the rest like them to stop killing and get a real job

Garett Garbry

Yes!!! N for the love of the Animals stop destroying it! Sell it and put the profits directly into the parks!

Michele Jankelow

NO! Never trade in animals or animal parts! It is savage and brutal!

Maureen Eales

it should never be lifted

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

another no brainer alert..of course it should not be lifted!!!

Georgia Ashby

Let animals live their lives, not for us to profit.

Gloria Wellington

Keep the ban on rhino horn!