POLL: Which is the best way to save the rhino from poachers?

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Rhinos are in trouble. The ancient Sumatran rhino has been declared extinct in Malaysia, following the fate of black rhinos in West Africa in 2011.

Central Africa’s northern white rhino has been reduced to four animals, and conservationists say the more plentiful southern white rhinos are under unprecedented attack from poachers eager to sell the horns to Asian and Arab buyers.

How can we save the rhino? Four experts discuss the problem with the BBC World Service Inquiry programme.

Option 1: Licence hunters to kill ageing rhinos suggested by Danene van der Westhuyzen

Danene van der Westhuyzen is one of only a few qualified female professional hunters in Namibia, and the first female dangerous game professional hunter ever to qualify in Namibia. Namibia has the largest concentration of black rhino on earth – nine currently live on Ms van der Westhuyzen’s land under her protection.

“We’re on the ground a lot: we try and be out in the veld every day, walk the tracks and try to spot the rhino. It’s not that easy because it’s a huge area, but we try. And the people know that, so they better not try their luck.

“When a big black rhino male gets past its productive stage it will get pushed out by the younger males, and as soon as that happens this big rhino, because it’s bigger, starts killing off all the other black rhino.

“I would phone up the government and I would say: ‘I’ve got this problem rhino, this one big bull has killed two rhino already on our property, we have to make a plan.’ But it’s so expensive to move a rhino.

Namibia’s older black rhino population needs to be carefully managed – Photo by Getty Images

“So the Ministry of Environment and Tourism decided to start auctioning off these post-productive bulls. They said we need to give out some licences and see if we can generate money to help conserve these rhinos. With each black rhino that is sold, the government gets $250,000 to $500,000 (£163,000 to £326,000).

Danene was at an auction at the Dallas Safari Club in the US where Texan millionaire Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 (£228,000) for a licence to track and shoot a Namibian rhino.

“I had tears in my eyes afterwards because we hoped for so much more. Everybody thought it would go for $1m (£650,000), but unfortunately there was such negative publicity around this. Corey had to have protection for him and his family for years afterwards, which is totally ludicrous.

“I don’t think a trophy hunter is going to shoot a rhino to try and stop the poaching. What a trophy hunter does is pay for an animal and that money goes into conservation.

“I think the demand will continue whatever.”

Option 2: Tackle the demand for horn products suggested by Huang Hong

Huang Hong runs an NGO called Change in Vietnam, which is one of the largest markets for rhino horn.

“It’s quite desperate right now. There are three types of people using this.

“One is people who have cancer or arthritis or some serious sickness because it is so commonly believed that rhino horn is a magic medicine that can cure every disease.

“Then there are business people and high-ranking officials who have money. Rhino horn can be a symbol of their status or power, and they can also receive it as a bribe. And rich men use it as medicine like Viagra. It’s just so ridiculous, because it doesn’t work.

Ground up rhino horn is seen by many in Vietnam as a miracle cure-all – Photo by Getty Images

“We are working in hospitals, organising workshops with western doctors and traditional medicine doctors. They then talk directly to the patients and say ‘it doesn’t work, so stop killing the innocent animals.’

“The people that use this probably don’t care that much if the rhino dies or not. Our culture and history involve fighting the wildlife rather than protecting it.

“I think changing awareness will take time.”

Option 3: Cut the horns to save the rhino suggested by Damian Vergnaud

Damian Vergnaud runs the Inverdoon Game Reserve in South Africa. The reserve’s first baby rhino in 20 years was born there last week.

“We’ve been attacked by poachers a few times. They fly above us at night with choppers; we were under attack once for a week, they came every night, trying to kill our rhino. It was very difficult.

“We came up with this horn treatment, where we inject dyes to denature and destroy the value. We make 50 holes and it ends up like Swiss cheese.”

But in some cases rhino with dyed horns have still been poached, so Damian devised a more radical scheme involving 3D printing:

“The concept is quite simple. We take a picture of the rhino, using a 3D computer design programme, and create a horn mould with the 3D printer. We cut the rhino’s real horn off and fill the mould with liquid plastic and aluminium. It dries very quickly and when we remove the mould, we have a horn which is the same colour, shape and size as the original.

Damian Vergnaud has pioneered the use of 3D printed fake horns

“In small game reserves like mine where there are five or six rhino, it’s very easy to communicate [to poachers that the horns are not real]. But I don’t say it’s the solution for everywhere.

“In a big park like Kruger Park where they’ve got thousands of rhino, the killing would not stop immediately. The rhino will still die for a period. But quite soon the criminals would see that they are taking enormous risks of getting shot for nothing, to pick up some plastic.”

Option 4: Legalise the horn trade suggested by Duan Biggs

Duan Biggs is a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland but grew up in South Africa’s Kruger Park.

“It’s very clear to anyone engaging in rhino conservation that the status quo is a dismal failure.

“The game rangers who used to do important work monitoring the habitat [have] no more time for that, they’re out fighting poachers.

A protestor holds a poster calling for an end to the rhino trade – Photo by Getty Images

“If you were to have a legal market for rhino horn, the animals would effectively be conserved. This is a resource that we can harvest humanely and sustainably from a live animal.

“You dart the rhino and you remove its horn and transport it to a vault that’s centrally managed and tightly secured. You have stringent monitoring systems for who is buying the horn.

“If you set up a legalised market well, you could actually fund enforcement to a much larger degree than it’s being funded now.

“Our estimate is that the demand for horn, based on the illegal supply, could be met by the 5,000 white rhino which are on private land in South Africa. In addition, we have quite large stockpiles of horn.

“Think of rhino being poached and their horns hacked off, and being left lying for a day or two while they bleed to death, versus a well-managed operation with a qualified vet where you can remove the horn and then it grows back, and the rhino is still alive and you can get numerous horns from that rhino during its lifetime.

“It’s a misconception that we’re arguing that if you legalise trade there will be no poaching. There will always be poaching.

“We’re arguing that with a legalised trade that is well-managed, you are far more likely to have rhino conserved than under the current situation.”

This article was first published by BBC News on 28 Oct 2015.

We invite you to share your opinion, which is the best way to save the rhino from poachers? Please vote and leave your comments below:

Which is the best way to save the rhino from poachers?

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Meta Williams

Tackling the demand is the cornerstone of a solution, but success will depend on action from all angles, including swift and severe sentencing of all offenders and quiet control of rogue rhinoes.

Akin Erbay

Just shoot the poachers dead

Maria Manuela Lopes

Stop hunting. Kill the poachers. Stop corruption and education.

Mary Madeco-Smith

I think they shoudl step up more security, educate the public on how stupid their belliefs are and shoot the poachers and collectors of horns and ivory. End of story.

Carolyn Golba

Put military troops out in the fields. Not just a few, but enough to guard the rhinos.


What evidence do we have that old bull rhinos kill younger rhinos and numbers involved. Lions do the same thing? @CNN

Angad Achappa

Shoot Poachers on sight!! Like Kaziranga National Park, where Rhinos made a good recovery!!

Eric Anches

Poachers demonstrate a warfare mentality. Accordingly, shoot them on sight.

Elena Sabadell Guasch

Shot the poachers to kill!!!

Paula Rock

Shoot the poachers on sight.

Bea Kraft

aim to kill all poachers ,no mercy why should animals suffer??? man can live quit well without horn off rhino ,no mercy for poacher seller or buyer

Caroline Mason

Best way to save the rhino? Several. 1) Engage Rhino Rescue Project to treat the horns of all rhino – it works, don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. 2) Get the SA government to take the issue seriously and appoint special courts, trained judges and set down mandatory sentences. And no bail. 3) Support the demand elimination work being done by WildAid and Breaking The Brand in consumer countries. Those in consumer countries must realise that rhino horn cures NOTHING, rhino horn is not a cool present to give someone. The best way to ensure the death of the… Read more »

Bruce Marion

stop all poaching on our rhinos they don't hurt any one so why should they be killed and horns cut for humans

Marilyn-Brian Ashman

Shoot to Kill the Poachers on site !!!

Leigh Lofgren

NOt sure any of the above are a solution – cutting the horns or discoloring them maybe, but you also need to educate and turn thinking around. Also far tougher penalties for those caught, selling, buying and all else….ban trophy hunting totally would be even better and put boots on the ground with orders to shoot anyone with intent to kill.

Anda V Zevedei

Shoot poachers on site! They'll learn eventually! + + death penalty too for people caught in possession of horns + + Kill the poachers to save the rhinos and elephants. + + No killing or harming rhinos in any way. Institute severe criminal punishmentand penalties including fines, hard labor, rehabilitation at sanctuaries, forfeiture of houses, cars,etc bought & paid for by killing & poaching, and imprisonment as deterrents. Global communities cooperate in ensuring similar criminal laws are enacted. Enact severe punishments, penalties, imprisonment, forfeitures and very steep fines for all those involved in the illegal trade, including sellers, middlemen, buyers.… Read more »

Pauline Cavanagh

hunt the hunters and poachers

Gina Mary

hide tracking devices in the horns.

Suzanna van Houwelingen

Canned lion hunting should be banned in S.A., its so cuel. Total hunting can not be banned, but hunters must have a licence so that only a number can be hunted, Poachers who hunt and kill Rhino should be killed on sight. The horns have no medicinal value, so it's totally unneccessary to kill these beautiful animals..

Simon Tucker

Of course the hunter is going to suggest killing and auctioning the opportunity off to wealthy arseholes. There is almost certainly an argument for culling rogue rhinos – but it should be done quietly and without fanfare by professionals not some fat American or European psycho who gets a buzz out of slaughtering wildlife. Her real problem was that she wanted more money than she got.

Mark McCandlish

I was not aware that you could cut the Rhino's horn off and that it would grow back. But if you make an artificial horn and glu it on after the real one is cut off, how does that help if another one will grow underneath it? Each of these ideas have value, so my suggestion would be "All of the above".

Mac Thor

Shoot poachers on site! They'll learn eventually!

Robin Hamilton

Kill the poachers to save the rhinos and elephants.

Vince Smith

The top solution is not actually a solution, rhinos whose horns have been cut are still targetted by poachers for the remaining stump which, because of the high value of the horn, is still worth taking.
Clearly the people voting for this measure have not done the research to back up their opinions.
The ONLY long-term solution is to stop the demand, the question is, have the rhinos got long enough left before they are driven to extinction?

Aurore Mi

kill poachers on sight +death penalty too for people caught in possession of horns

Ray McMillan

The killing of Rhinos needs to be prohibited by law and Rhino killers need to be brought to book quickly and harshly if necessary. They should if necessary be shot on sight as this is a species facing extinction and mankind is responsible for this. We must take drastic action to ensure that everyone knows that we will not tolerate the killing of these animals at all!!

Harry Hill


Errol Gunn

Shoot poachers on sight! Scare them with this policy so that they never ever think of poaching a rhino! Or elephant! There is no other way. Its time to take drastic action and stop pussy-footing around this issue before we lose all our rhino's and elephants!

Terence Hale

“Which is the best way to save the rhino from poachers?”. There is no one solution and a combination of the many solution you suggest is needed.

Peter Nupen

Declare war on the poachers. No matter how poor you may be, knowing that killing Rhinos is punishable by death is a huge deterrent.

Michelle Keller

No killing or harming rhinos in any way. Institute severe criminal punishmentand penalties including fines, hard labor, rehabilitation at sanctuaries, forfeiture of houses, cars,etc bought & paid for by killing & poaching, and imprisonment as deterrents. Global communities cooperate in ensuring similar criminal laws are enacted. Enact severe punishments, penalties, imprisonment, forfeitures and very steep fines for all those involved in the illegal trade, including sellers, middlemen, buyers.