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There are several key concerns that I have with regards to our new burgeoning legal, albeit regulated, trade in rhino horn. Now that its legal to trade rhino horn locally, it must surely be legal to start aggressive marketing and social marketing campaigns to substantiate the medical abilities,  social status and benefits of the horn to several potential markets:

Asian users of rhino horn visiting South Africa for ‘medical tourism reasons.’Local South Africans wanting to explore the benefits of using rhino horn for the treatment of many diseases.

I suggest this law has now allowed South African entrepreneurial folk to quickly and aggressively start developing a plan to ‘create a growth sector’ targeting a poor, ailing and uneducated local population (not sure of the percentage of South Africans) that due to a legitimized trade, can be solicited to spend their last pennies to consume rhino horn as a treatment to these bogus ailments, and as a treatment to uplift personal status and social positions within communities.

The real risk we have right now (quoted from a recent (IFAW) report titled Horn of Contention: A review of literature on the economics of trade in rhino horn.) Is that any form of regulated trade in rhino horn trade could drive an increase in poaching through a combination of the following five mechanisms. I copied this off Jason Bell’s IFAW article written in October 2014. Jason Bell was then a regional director of (IFAW)

“The report was clear in its findings, noting that there is a real risk that regulated trade could drive an increase in poaching through a combination of five mechanisms:”

1.)   Through legal and illegal markets coexisting and interacting in complex ways.

2)    Through reducing the stigma attached to consumption of the product.

3)    By potentially reducing the supply costs of illegal supply.

4)    By potentially facilitating the laundering of illegal supply in with legal supply.

5)    As a result of uncertainty around the response of illegal suppliers to competition from a legal market.

We are all aware that we do not operate in a fundamentally honest environment in South Africa, Examples of corruption, and corruption as a major threat to the South African economy are widely accepted as real, and often overwhelming threats to our future. This corruption has been highlighted in the media as infiltrated into private/government relationships and government relationships with international investors.

My question is “Do we honestly believe that the trade in rhino horn is going to benefit the whole country instead of a few (roughly 25% of South Africa’s rhino in the hands of a few private owners) rich so-called conservationists who have relegated conservation of the rhino as an absolute necessity to sell the horn for bogus medical reasons in order to procure its survival.

In conclusion, I can only ask all South African’s to mark this day, and then to monitor if this new legal trade in rhino horn will increase or decrease poaching.

Right now we have successfully reduced the number of rhinos poached in the Kruger national Park by fighting a ground war, an intelligence war, and a non-nonsense approach to this scourge. Now we have to fight new emerging local markets on top of it.

It is now time to engage CITES to promote the Southern White and Black rhino to be listed as a critically endangered species.

Neil Heron

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