POLL: Should there be a total ban on trade in rhino horn?

  • 1.1K

September 22 was World Day. Rhinos were once widespread across Asia and Africa and even in Europe, where they are depicted on cave paintings. Today their situation is precarious.

The world population of the northern now consists of three individuals. Sudan, the last surviving male, is now beyond breeding age. He and two female companions are living out their lonely final years under the care of Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Three of the remaining five species, the black rhino in Africa and the Javan and in Asia, are listed as ‘Critically endangered’. What can be done to save them?

burns at Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic on September 19, 2017. Photograph: Hynek GLOS/ZOO Dvůr Králové

On Tuesday Richard Leakey and I were guests of the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. Together with Veronika Varekova, a Czech supermodel who is also a Trustee of the African Wildlife Foundation, we were there to preside over the burning of horns from the zoo’s rhinos.

Earlier in the year, the zoo decided to remove the horns of all its 21 rhinos after a rhino in a French wildlife park was killed by poachers. The zoo knows that if it holds on to these horns it will itself become the target of organized crime.

At the start of the moving ceremony, the zoo Director Premysl Rabas explained:

If we do not fight the trade in rhino horn, the time will come soon when rhino completely disappears from our planet. By burning rhino horn we want to send the world a clear message that horns belong to rhinos and not to people.

Richard Leakey lights a bonfire of rhino horn at Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic on 19 September 2017. Photograph: Hynek GLOS/ZOO Dvůr Králové

This is the second rhino horn burn held by the zoo – the first was in 2014. The zoo is part of a growing global movement, one started by Richard Leakey and Kenya’s President Moi when they organized Kenya’s first burn in 1989. The word’s first rhino horn burn took place, also in Kenya, the following year.

The event in Dvur Kralove highlighted the key role of zoos in rhino conservation. Since 2009, the Zoo has managed to return eight of its rhinos back to Africa, including the three Northern white rhinos in Ol Pejeta.

Sadly their efforts came too late to save this species, but zoos can help stop other species from suffering the same tragic fate. Breeding stocks of rhinos in zoos can form the basis for restocking programmes where there is suitable habitat and adequate security in place.

Sudan, the last surviving male northern white rhino, is fed by a warden at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia national park, Kenya May 3, 2017. Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters

The rhino horn burn in Dvur Kralove is part of a wider campaign “Burn Horns, Save Rhinos”. The message is simple: the only way to safeguard the future of rhinos is to end the trade in rhino horn. In the words of Richard Leakey:

The of rhino is driven by trade in rhino horn. Burning it and ridiculing those who value it is an excellent idea. And those who try to sell it should be publicly condemned as they deliberately try to make personal profit on of rhinos.

Among those trying to profit from rhino horn is a group of rich and powerful South African rhino breeders. Unlike other rhino species, the southern white rhino, native to southern Africa, can be bred easily in captivity. By treating rhinos like cattle, owners of rhino farms have amassed huge quantities of rhino horn, worth as much as US$ 60,000 per kilo on the black market.

Earlier this year, South African courts authorized rhino farmer John Hume to hold an online auction of his rhino horn stocks. John Hume has five tonnes of rhino horn and wants to be able to sell it to Asian consumers. The court’s decision shocked South Africans and was condemned around the world.

Thankfully, despite explicitly targeting buyers from China and Vietnam, the principal consumer countries, the auction attracted few bidders. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the CITES global ban on trade in rhino horn remains in place. There was no way that purchasers of John Hume’s rhino horn could, legally, get it out of the country.

The rhino farmers have vowed to continue their campaign to legalize the trade. A statement issued by John Hume’s lawyers following the auction concludes:

Despite government bullying tactics and illogical unsustainable animal rights propaganda, we will continue our fight to bring this dark trade into the light in order to conserve our rhinos.

Rhino farmers argue that demand for rhino horn as a traditional medicine in Asia won’t go away and that legalizing the trade will deter poachers from targeting rhinos in the wild. They play down the fact that legalizing the trade would also make them extremely rich and insist it is “the only way to save rhinos”.

These claims are false. Current demand for rhino horn is fuelled by fraudulent claims, for example that it can prevent cancer, that were never made by practitioners of traditional medicine.

These fictitious ‘benefits’ have been invented by as a sales pitch to members of the new Asian super-rich who have money to burn and get a kick out of consuming wildly expensive products made from the dead bodies of endangered animals.

Legalizing the rhino trade will provide the green light for a massive expansion of market, exposing wild rhinos to greater threats from poachers than ever before.

The extent to which rhino farms contribute to conservation of the species is also questionable, to say the least. John Hume has 1250 rhinos on his 8000 hectare farm in . This is a stocking density more appropriate for cows than large wild animals. It is impossible for these rhinos to develop social structures and patterns of behaviour seen in wild populations.

Domestication of rhinos does little to contribute to the conservation of wild populations. It is quite likely that as successive generations of rhinos become accustomed to these cramped conditions, rhino farms are selecting out the genes that confer fitness on wild populations of rhinos.

By contrast the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya provides a secure habitat for more than 100 Black rhinos that live out their lives in natural conditions alongside other wild animals.

The Conservancy’s mission is “to generate income through wildlife tourism and complementary enterprise for reinvestment in conservation and communities”. In addition to viewing and photograph rhinos in their natural habitat, visitors can help fund conservation efforts by paying to adopt a rhino or naming a baby rhino .

Time is running out for the world’s rhinos. But we can save them through enlightened conservation efforts like those at Ol Pejeta and other conservancies in Kenya and some other African countries — together with zero tolerance of poaching, and and, especially, those who use rhino horn products.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 22 Sep 2017.

We invite you to share your opinion whether there should be a total ban on trade in rhino horn? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should there be a total ban on trade in rhino horn?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Thank you for voting.

Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop . By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter



Founder and Executive Editor

Share this post with your friends

  • 1.1K

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
Chantal Micha

Oui absolument

Miramani Miki

Soon there will be no rhinos or their horns, unfortunately. Too late for their salvation, they are already under the red line of survival on this planet. Perhaps 20 years ago to systematically come to their adequate protection and conservation, they would have much more chance of recovering and continuing their kind, but man always waiting for the worst to happened to take something radical. However, sometimes this can not be enough, because the wheel of the accident and human greed is too fast for their safe rescue and a long-lasting stay on this planet. Unfortunately, we completely lost the… Read more »

Cathy Nolane


Annie Boulanger

Bien sûr c evident

La Cacahuette

Hope these 8 are missclicks

Bernadette Charline Gustin


Isabelle Fernandès

SONDAGE EN FIN D’ARTICLE : Devrait-il y avoir une interdiction totale du commerce de la corne de rhinocéros?

Oui (98%, 428 Votes)
Non (2%, 8 voix)
Ne sait pas (0%, 0 Votes)
Nombre total d’électeurs: 436

Norma Hurt

YES absolutely.

Tina Shurtleff

Yes. It’s not medicine. These idiots are killing these beautiful animals for superstitious nonsense. Ban it.

Linda Badham
Linda Badham

leave nature alone. why do people disrespect ?

Annick Baud

Could there be a way to breed the 2 last white female rhinos with a black rhino, so their genes wouln’t be lost? This is heartbreaking. I always come back to the same question: why is the human specie so lethal? Everywhere it goes, it kills, pollutes and destroys. Why?????????????????

Annick Baud
Annick Baud

Could there be a way to breed the 2 last female white rhinos with a black rhino, so at least their genes wouldn’t be lost? This is SO sad. Heartbreaking. I come back again and again to the same question: why is the human specie so lethal? Everywhere it goes, it pollutes, kills and destroys. Why????

Michelle Jones

Voted & Yes

Barbara Wood


Isabel Silva
Isabel Silva

YES of course

Keithh Hiley

OF Course

Debby Lindsay

I wonder if the ones who vote no are doing this on purpose?…This is a no brainer..
I think if they are going to be in a santuary for life, maybe take the horn off to keep someone from killing them.? and put some Pitbulls in there to roam and keep watch.

Marilyn Leybra

If u take the horns off why would they need to be in sanctuary for life w/ pitbulls & do u think poachers dont kill pitbulls? Question is who’s going to impose & enforce a ‘total ban,’ we see here that South African courts authorized John Hume to sell his five tonnes of rhino horn online. Did they do out of goodness of their heart for Mr Hume or how far does monetary interest spread? In a sane, human world ‘courts’ would’ve ordered the horn burned. There is no future for rhinos in the wild since this will only spur… Read more »

JD Creager

Register it, sell it flood the market. Thats what will devalue the price on the black market.

Marilyn Leybra

That may somewhat devalue the black market but there is always a black market of some value for anything of value & who’s to say how much horn of a vanishing species it would actually take to supposedly ‘flood the market’…unless the industry of rhinos raised like cattle expands.

Muriel Lovse


LenaMaria Holgersdotter


Pauline St.Denis

Yes now or they’ll be gone forecer

Michele Jankelow

Totallly absolutely!

Pingles Parusia

Undoubtedly yes!! Has no value except to its owner…

Barry Frederick Baudains

Voted yes but by the time they’ve sussed it out there won’t be and Animals left to worry about. Crazy

Jan Ann Prince


Annemarie Philipp


Judith Cavey

YES! Voted and shared.

Laurette Bouchard


Frances Stapleton


Ken Archambault

You have to ask?!

Adelina Jaudal

yes !

Connie Wessel


Quazi Ahmed Hussain

Of course, there must be.

Donna Buelt


Annette Mathew


Nooky da Silva

yes world wide

Art Ryan


Lynn Garza

Of course ! No market , no murders. Same with elephants.

Bunni Merk

whats keeping ya from making this real??? YES!!!!

Catherine Graham


Tamara Sandusky


Mary White

Ss. The horns belong to the rhinos not anyone else in

Pat Burgert


Bob McFarland


Nigel Hinkes

Yes !!!!!

Peter McDowell


Scott Gavin


Phyllis Rygh

What a stupid question. Why do you ask these stupid questions? ! You know everyone is going to say yes

Lynda Jordan


Doraine Anne Van Lew

Uh – that’s a no brainer!