new website: www.johnvarty.com



Founder: John Varty

Tiger Canyons
Tiger Experiment
Invest in Tigers
Tiger Canyons tigers

Tiger Anatomy


JV Image Library
JV's Music

JV's Films


Tiger Conservation

Tiger Subspecies

Tiger Newsletters

Tiger Photo Gallery

Contact us



Select newsletter in right column

Newsletter 59

Response to Rhino Horn Auction

To: John Varty

You obviously supports the legal sale of Rhino horn and elephant ivory much to my surprise.  I have to strongly disagree with you.  There is not and never will be enough rhino horn and elephant ivory to satisfy the market for these products.  One-off sales have not worked in the past to stop the poaching.  They only feed the desire for more of the product.  The huge influx of Chinese workers into Africa have been instrumental in the increase of poaching.  The growing middle class in China has increased the markets for ivory and rhino horn.   

The only way to stop the poaching is to educate the Asian people.  I watched a documentary just recently where many Chinese were interviewed and asked if they knew that elephants are being killed to get the ivory the people are buying.  Most of them said they didn’t realize that and appeared shocked.  The world has to put pressure on the Asian governments – mainly China – to find a way to stop the desire for these products through mass education on TV, in schools etc.  plus serious punishment for those who are caught importing the product.   

What good will your plan do when they have sold all the horn, ivory and skins in the inventory?  The poachers will go out and get more because now the market has been stimulated even more so they have many more buyers.   

Advertising is a powerful tool.  Public service announcements and education worked in the U.S. to stop littering in the 60’s and substantially reduced drunk driving.  The same mass programs  could work to stop the Asians from buying horns and ivory.   

I am an admirer of the work you do in Africa but I believe you are wrong to promote one-off sales of ivory and horn. 

Judy Merrick

Hi John. I assume that this is tongue in cheek. I cannot believe that you would be for the legalization of the rhino horn trade. We have both been in the wild life industry all our lives and have followed the trends. Encouraging trade in wild life products with the East has never had any  effect other than to feed their insatiable demand thus exponentially increasing the promotion of the illegal trades. Cheers Mike Gunn.

How sad that Mr Varty chooses this option for our wildlife knowing full well that the once off sale of Ivory to Japan and China has fuelled this Elephant poaching crises that we have today. Tragic that this is what he wants for our rhino. Trade will not stop poaching or illegal horns, proper protection and a willing Government will. Instead of opting for true conservation Mr Varty has opted for human greed.

How regretable.
Bet Regards
Melissa Weavind

Hi JV 

I’ve enjoyed your antics (BTW: I say ‘antics’ in the nicest possible way) for a good number of years starting with the stuff you made with Elmon in the early years. The letter you penned to John Hume, posted widely on FB, leaves me a little puzzled. Controversy for the sake of controversy is fine but we live with the consequences. I suppose more correctly our children live with the dreck we leave behind. Are you really of the opinion that rhino horn sales be made legal? If so why? 

Mark Kirk

Hi JV 

I disagree with this strategy. 

Whilst the sale of an already procured resource, accessed either by de-horning or the confiscation of poached items, may seem attractive and logical due to its value, that value is derived and supported by demand, a demand which will be further encouraged by this sale. 

This is one of the most disappointing aspects of funding the protection of wild species, that the most valuable resource driving extinction can and should not be used to support conservation measures. 

I agree that we need to develop large funds to support conservation efforts in all areas of the world and for all endangered species and habitat; some of the more endangered have little intrinsic value available to drive support efforts and perhaps it is here where the fundraising strategy which I hope to discuss with you soon could be most effective. 

Unfortunately many in this world see nothing of value unless it can produce a profit. Wouldn’t it be great to turn this around in favour of natural resource management rather than bank balance management. 

I hope we can talk soon 

Steven Thompson

Hello friends, 

Thank you to the above for carefully thought out emails.   

When the National Parks had the auctions of ivory in the 80s, the Kruger National Park had 7000 elephants.  The Sabi Sand Game Reserve, where Londolozi is situated, had 5 elephants.  Today the Kruger National Park has 13 000 elephants and Sabi Sand can have as many as 1000 elephants in the dry season. 

This seems pretty successful to me, especially as elephants are beginning to colonize the Transfrontier park into Mozambique.   

So kindly tell me where the sale of ivory at auctions has fuelled the poaching of elephants in South Africa?  The above example suggests the opposite.   

In the 60's, the Sabi Sand owners introduced White rhino, purchased from Natal Parks.  

For 50 years we have protected, conserved, bred and paid for our rhino, which is now a sizeable population. Over the years, rhino have died of old age, being killed in fights and died from disease.  The horns of these rhinos have been collected and stored in safe places away from the Sabi Sand. The horns have no value, because under the present law private individuals cannot trade legally in horn. 

By 2010 sizeable, sophisticated syndicates of rhino poachers were operating successfully in South Africa. 

South Africa is the stronghold of the White rhino, with a total of 18 000, 25% being held and conserved by the private enterprise (South Africa has donated Black and White rhino to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi amongst others over the last 20 years).    

By 2011 the poaching syndicates had identified the soft targets and 448 were poached in that year (2007 - 12; 2008 - 83; 2009 - 122; 2010 - 333)

The trend continued into 2012 and 10 have been killed this year (end of September; 4 rhinos were killed at Lalibela yesterday).   

So how do we protect our rhinos that we have bred up for 50 years?   

We protect them by becoming a hard target.  You get a reputation amongst poachers that you will be killed if you try to poach rhino in our area.  In order to be a hard target, you have to employ a small army of highly trained well-armed men 24/7.   

To back up the ground crew, you need air power.  A Robinson 44 helicopter flies at R2 600 per hour and fuel is increasing every 6 months. 

You need a radio communication network and you need to be able to pay for information. When you do make arrests you have to hire skilled legal people to make the charges stick. The poaching syndicates are well represented legally and many are slipping away on technicalities.   

As stated in a previous newsletter, the Government has done little or nothing to help the private enterprise combat the rhino poaching.    

So how do you finance this war against the sophisticated syndicates? You finance it with money, lots of money! Where does the money come from? It comes from the rhino horn stocks that have been lying in vaults for many years. (some 20 tonnes of rhino horn are presently in stock piles)

I was in the rhino conservation business long before I was in the tiger conservation business. I and Sabi Sand owners invested in rhinos in the 60s.  I and the owners of the Sabi Sand have paid to conserve and breed those rhinos for over 50 years. I and the owners of the Sabi Sand must now pay for the army to fight the syndicates (no Government assistance).   

The success of the rhino will be won by those who have the ability to protect it on the ground and those who can enforce the big jail sentences in the courts. 

Therefore, those who paid and invested in rhinos have every right to trade in the rhino horn that has been collected for over 50 years. 

The inability to finance the army against the syndicates may well mean we lose the battle on the ground. This is not an agenda that I am contemplating. I intend to win and win big, to crush the syndicates and help move the South African rhino population forward to 36 000 in my lifetime.   

If people like John Hume, and others will help me, I will go all the way to the Supreme Court of South Africa for my right to legally trade the rhino horn to further the aims of rhino conservation in South Africa. 

Tread lightly on the earth.

“Make It Legal” by David Cook   

Banning the trade in rhino horn has reduced SA to the role of spectator at an extinction event 

“Traditional preventative measures cannot succeed without help from a trade instrument that acts as a disincentive to poaching by replacing poached horn with legal horn drawn from stockpiles.” 

JUDGING by the somewhat ambiguous comments attributed to Mavuso Msimang, Department of Environment Affairs (DEA) rhino issue manager, in the press on the bid for a regulated trade in rhino horn as formally proposed by Ezemvelo, the DEA and the South African Government are not prepared to carry this forward to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) Conference of the Parties (CoP) in March 2013. 

The deadline for submissions to Cites has in any event come and gone — this, three months after Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife put forward its Cites proposal document. Citing too little time in which to prepare and unspecified legal obstacles, these official excuses screen a much deeper malaise — a department which seems unable to face up to the reality of the crisis, seems overly attentive to emotive anti-trade propaganda and conveys the impression that it will do anything to appease international dogma in the form of the now discredited Cites trade ban. 

The grim fact is that extinction at current rates of poaching—or a situation approximating the start point in Zululand in the sixties when only 600 white rhino and even fewer of the black species survived—is a mere 20 years away. Unlike Kenya, which started off with 60 000 rhino in 1960 and now shamefully has only 1 000 left, South Africa has over 22 000, 18 000 of them white, all descended from the 600 surviving nucleus saved by the Ian Player led team in Umfolozi in 1960. 

Then again the DEA’s decision not to seek support for a legal trade at Cites in 2013 should come as no surprise. Since the Rhino Summit held in 2010, irregularities in the administration of the wildlife industry and a number of

high-profile cases of blatant abuse, the department has shown a marked lack of appetite for any new solutions. But there is more. 

The failure of the DEA delegates to the Cites Standing Committee meeting in Geneva in July this year even to mention the furious debate going on in South Africa at the time over the merits of a legal trade in horn and the growing support it was receiving from prominent wildlife figures, provide ample evidence of resistance to change. 

A supreme opportunity was missed to declare to the international conservation bureaucracies of the Western world that 35 years of a ban on trade in rhino horn had done absolutely nothing to save the species. It had, in fact, played directly into the hands of the black-market trade in rhino horn and reduced South Africa, which holds 75% of the world’s rhino population, to the role of a spectator at an extinction event. 

What then is the DEA position—if it has one at all? Complaining about a lack of time to prepare the ground for a Cites proposal ( is two years not enough?), prevarication in the form of time-wasting investigations, a Parliamentary portfolio hearing on rhino poaching solutions and, latterly, the wide ranging consultative process

conducted through workshops and meetings with interested parties, the answer is simply business as usual. But carrying on doing the same thing with the same result surely challenges basic human intelligence. 

Much the same may be said of many mainstream conservation NGOs that declined to declare open support for Ezemvelo’s legal trade proposal when it was most needed, leaving the bid seriously weakened. Instead, their

contribution to the anti-poaching campaign in the form of eye catching support measures, public-awareness events and fundraising programmes has produced little in the way of results. 

The events of the past few weeks in which Ezemvelo discovered the carcases of 10 rhino poached in Hluhluwe/Umfolozi reveal the well-nigh impossible task of defeating the poaching menace using defensive strategies alone. Ezemvelo has arguably the most efficient anti-poaching team in the country, operating over protected areas with well-developed relationships in place with neighbouring communities that act as an intelligence filter to criminal activity.  

Yet the poachers struck, in one instance in a small private reserve, killing a rhino fitted with a hi-tech tracking device to aid surveillance. 

With the stakes as high as USD60000 per kg. a single act of climbing over or through a fence , a panga in one hand and a borrowed or supplied rifle in the other, to kill a rhino (as easy an act as shooting a cow standing in a pasture), hack off its horn and retreat over the fence to receive a handsome payoff equal to many years income , is simply irresistible ; no wonder also that such a lucrative temptation attracts the odd case of corruption within the ranks of official staff. 

Traditional preventative measures cannot succeed without help from a trade instrument that acts as a disincentive to poaching by replacing poached horn with legal horn drawn from stockpiles. Here in KZN, we may not have

long porous international borders to our parks, but, instead, have to contend with the lowest of low hanging

fruit in the form of many rhino concentrated in small protected areas situated amid impoverished rural communities with unemployment rates of over 40% and easy escape routes for criminals into nearby urban areas. 

Our KZN reserves are extremely vulnerable to poaching. It remains a comparatively low-risk activity on account of the cover afforded by rugged terrain and thick vegetation. Under these conditions, effective protection of rhino by even the best-trained and most well-equipped army of rangers that the flushest of budgets could afford, is rendered extremely difficult. 

South Africa’s rhino can be saved through common sense. Replace the illegal trade in rhino horn with a legal trade and we might just regain control of our natural heritage. 

South Africa's rhino can be saved through rational use of practical common sense , not misguided allegiance to noble but completely impractical animal rights ethics - an ideology that could be argued already has the death of over 1200 rhino, and rising, to ponder". Replace the illegal trade in rhino horn with a legal trade and we might just regain control of our natural heritage. 

• David Cook is a former Natal Parks Board senior officer and environmental consultant. 


Refer Saturday Star 03/11/11 --

Saturday STAR 03/11/2012

Rhino horn sales the solution – Ian Player

Conservationist pleads for ‘factory sales’ to China


South Africa should go into business with China by setting up a factory to supply it with the more than 20 tons of rhino horn gathered through natural deaths of the animals.

That’s the proposition of Dr Ian Player, who spearheaded Operation Rhino and is renowned for bringing the world’s rhino back from the brink several decades ago.

“In the 1960’s, the Natal Parks Board sold rhino horn on the open market in Dar es Salaam,” the 85-year-year-old conservationist told delegates at the Diamond Route research conference this week.

Banning the sales of rhino horn and ivory had not stopped poaching, he said.

“Arguments against the sale of rhino horn is that it could fuel the demand… but my belief is that we should go into business with the Chinese, set up a factory and supply them with horns gathered through natural mortality.”

It was now too late to put forward the “excellent and formal” proposal on the strict, controlled trade of rhino horn by Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife at the upcoming conference on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species meeting in March because of delays by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Already, 488 rhinos have been slain this year – against last year’s total of 448. But Player is optimistic that “we shall save the rhino again”.

To stop the unprecedented slaughter, “our first priority must be to give all the possible support to the conservation agencies and private landowners in the protection of the rhino”.

Player, the founder of the Wilderness Leadership School, said KwaZulu-Natal “can look with pride” upon its achievements. “We brought them (rhino) back from the verge of extinction and there are now an estimated 20 000 white rhino in the world and this from an original 50 in the 1920s – surely a phenomenal achievement.

“My great fear is that whereas the white rhino might be able to withstand the poaching, the black rhino would not be able to do so. In 1953, when we first counted the white rhino, there were over 60 000 black rhino in East Africa. They have now been reduced to a handful.”

Some Far East countries were farming the rhino for its horn. “The belief by millions of people in China, Thailand and Vietnam that the horn has medical properties… will not be changed by rational arguments.”

Dehorning the rhino has not acted as an deterrent. “The poachers will kill a rhino just for the remaining stump because the price is so high. Game ranches have become the biggest buyers of surplus rhino but they are going to pay huge sums only to have the rhino poached.”

The rhino carnage was an “indicator of the environmental crisis” facing SA. “Water shortages, sewage disposal, pollution of rivers and dams, leaking acid water from abandoned mines and pollution of the sea are but a few… These problems supersede all political problems because all of us are dependent upon the environment for our survival.”


Hi from New Zealand,
Am sorry to hear about John's accident. Hope he recovers soon. And gets running supersonic
I've been watching the debate on the rhino debacle with concern and sadness. Clearly the government and parks boards are loosing the battle and in danger of loosing the plot as well. I have not seen Mr Msimang's report, but have been to too many so called consultative workshops to have any faith in any innovative or effective solution or range of solutions being adopted. I just don't believe that the current suggestions on the table are workable, be they rhino farming of periodic horn auctions. The old economic adage says that; demand will always beget supply. Thus, short of killing demand, there is little chance of slowing the poaching. Many more powerful organisations and effective governments have tried to stop the illicit  trade in weapons, drugs, women and young girls to little effect. With regards to the latter group, the most effective approach has been to take a people approach in the affected communities. And, in my mind, this is the one critical missing piece in the SA rhino puzzle.
Everyone is focused on rhino conservation and not people. There are huge numbers of rural folks living in or near rhino population. Yet they have no stake in them. Many probably don't even know the value of a rhino ( its horn or on the hoof in the wild). We, as whites, have for ears shut black folks out of this discussion.  Their traditions value cattle, almost beyond anything. Over centuries, we have done ourselves a disservice by not sharing the value of our wild life with our black brothers. If we are to conserve our wild life we need to bring our whole population on board as owners and conservators.
Your site has letters from the likes of John Hume who talk about raising R14million to set up a rhino breading farm with impressive "production" figures. He only talks about himself. No mention of partnerships, although there are some very good, tried and tested partnership business models.
I don't know where the rhino story will go, but at one and a half rhino lost every day, its about time people worked outside the box and put aside vested interests. Rest assured there is a solution out there, I just hope it wont boil down to collecting cell samples and cloning new rhino in time to come.
Get well soon and carry on shaking trees.
Warm regards,
Hugh Jagoe, MSc (agric), MBA.

I disagree with them. The only way to control and banned substance is to legalize it. Always look at the greater good. We can start rhino farms to cater to the Chinese market and growing demand while the species as a whole in the wild and captivity will have a greater chance of survival.

Leon Emanuel

Dear Mr Varty,

I would encourage people to vote against this trade in rhino horn.

Education and lobbing in parliament and trying to get government to take a harsh stance against this poaching and trade is the right thing rather.

As the late mahatma Ghandhi said in the attachment above to fight a war against war we must start with our children. (world over includes china)

This should have been the moto for the 50 years you raised Rhino, maybe today we would not sit with this poaching problem.

It is never to late, if you use the same energy and resources to advocate against the poaching and trade maybe we could all Win Big

In the mean time I think you are short sighted and need to re look at the future, trade carefully on this earth.

Very disappointed

No matter how practical and economical it might be to sell "legal" rhino horn or ivory, there is just, well, something WRONG about it to me--like raising tigers in captivity like cattle for their body parts. We humans need to wean ourselves away from thinking we need these things, and let what little is left of the wild, remain as wild as possible. We've come a long way in discouraging the use of these unnecessary luxuries over the last few decades, and I think we shouldn't give up yet on convincing we humans of the world to be satisfied with our appendages, and let the animals keep theirs......Lane Batot

John, I believe your argument is the most valid. As for Judy Merrick her point is laughable. The Chinese government don't give a fig for elephant and rhino conservation. They will look after their pandas but are just not interested in anything else. As for the South African government they must do everything they can to protect especially rhinos from Asian cartels however I would not be surprised if members of the SA government were not involved themselves.
John you can only do so much.

Hang in there as you have many supporters.



Once off legal sale can also lead to more illegal killing of Rhinos and attempts to convert these illegal stock of horns to legal stock will continue.


Barry Potgieter

As a Wild life Worker and invoved in Game capturing and the likes, I and must agree with your Sentiments and those of Varty. There are Billions of Dollars of rhino Horn And Ivory Locked up in Vaults which could be sold to the STUPID Slant Eyes to gather extremely urgently NEEDED Finances for the APU`s of our World to really be Able to fight Poachers and Eliminate the Buyers Legally or ILLEGALLY seeing that NO GOVERNMENT in AFRICA has the INTEREST to stop this SCOURGE while the GOV.`s Squanders OUR TAX MONEY to pay for there Drunken Parties, Flashy Cars and Living In POSH Neighbourhoods, SLAUGHTERING Live Stock at there home (Against The Law) while POACHERS and SENIOR GOV. Officials DECIMATE our Endangered Wild Life. unless all the stock is not taken from all over the World and Stockpiled in a Neutral Country and the Sales not Overseen by an Independent Controlled Organisation, the Idea will never work as you can not leave this type of operation in Any African Country or Governments hands as they are all Corrupt

Natalie Cilliers

Just one question - will the people making money out of these so-called once of sales put the money into APU's and the like, or will they enjoy a comfortable retirement with the proceeds? What assurance do we have that those with the stockpiles will put even 50% back into conservation and protection, and not their own ventures to create even more stockpiles, to continue this circle?

Karen Paolillo

John have known you since 77 but this time you are being too much a Sagitarian wild man! Selling ivory or horn is the most useless idea anyone can have. If people can make money out of something they will never stop utilizing it. Burn all ivory, all horn and then there is no stockpile. By wanting to sell old horn you are just falling into the buyers hands. John you should no better. Mike Gunn thanks to you I live my dream here with the hippos of the Turgwe. Thanks Mike

Go For it John . You are speaking sense .  Kevin

Hi John,

Ok so here are my thoughts.

Trading rhino horn or ivory to find the fight against demand is like the DEA selling the heroin they get to fund their fight against it. 

Not only is it morally wrong and sends out a double standard message but increases demand and dependency. We need to look at weaning populations off and more modern intelligent methods to do so. 

Education is one, you don't need to be in China to educate them, you have the internet! Lobbying is another, Chinese will listen if communicated in the right way. 

Think laterally, stay on the correct path and continue to be vocal and advocate both locally and internationally, don't opt for a quick winner, it'll take decades.

Steve Le Roux

Hi JV   

I have read with interest the various comments. 

Surely it is correct to sell rhino horn to help pay for protection and educate the Asian people at the same time. This will ensure success on all fronts. Fighting Rhino poaching is not one dimensional fight. 

Derek Hutchings

Andre Pienaar from Facebook

It is actually very simple; if you want to save the rhino as a specie, but disagrees with private owners; buy your own rhino, put him in your yard...and feed him. Soon you will understand private owners! But it is easier to fight a war on internet, isn't it?

Wynand Smit from Facebook

John Varty.
When they had a successful anti poaching team who reduced poaching in the Sabi Sands to virtually zero, why did you get rid of them?
These men at the time cost the Sabi Sands very little and they were actually, despite the good work they did, treated and paid like shit! That did not bother them because as they were not there for the money or because it was just another job, they were there because they had a passion for what they were doing and that is probably the reason why they were so successful.
Even the SAPS at Skukuza allowed them to operate outside the reserve to affect arrests without being accompanied by the SAPS.
You did have the small army of well trained men you refer to. This small army of men took no shit from any person including yourself and if I can remember right, you yourself were charged by them for the illegal shooting of an animal and an admittance of guilt fine was paid to MTPA. Perhaps they did their job to well and therefore they had to be worked out of the system!
That same team generated a huge income for the Sabi Sands through the sale of White Rhino to other game reserves but according to some people this was not acceptable.
How many of these men are still operating in the Sabi Sands? How many of them are sitting without a job right on your doorstep knowing what is happening in the Sabi Sands and knowing who is involved but because they were chased away like dogs, decided not to say anything about it.
Makes one wonder, who is actually responsible for the situation in the Sabi Sands.
Is the income generated by lodging in the Sabi Sands not enough to pay for your little army? At an average rate of R4 500 (which is probably far less than what is actually charged) per person per night with 38 lodges with an average of 20 beds and some with more than 60 and an average bed occupancy of 70%, the income generated is close to R72 000 000-00 per month!
Let the landowners pay higher levies!
If you and Hume and all the other rhino owners are so concerned about the killing of our rhino, why don’t you donate your horns to the people who desperately want it? That may just help to stop the slaughter of our rhino? No, it is all about the money for you and your cronies! Same as you pathetic little tiger project! Tell us the whole story about the charges which were brought against you by Li Quan and the outcome thereof!
If you were in the rhino conservation business as you call it for so long, why did you allow your trusted tracker, Elmon to get away with the shooting of a rhino?
And by the way, rhino conservation is not a business, it is a passion. And so is all conservation and if you have lost your passion, best you leave the bush and move to your cozy little beach house at Betty’s Bay!
And then you have the audacity to use the phrase “Tread lightly on the earth”

Great answer. Keep up the good work.
James Williamson

We are talking about elephants on the entire continent, not one area in SA. Perhaps you should look at the big picture to get a more realistic idea!! 

Dear JV

I agree totally with what your point of view is by selling the rhino horn in private stocks. If people can find another way to privately fund the helicopter and the army, could they make suggestions, as at the moment the amount of rhinos being killed is just ridiculous.

Thanks for spear heading this extremely critical cause.

Astley Knight


I truly now do believe you DON'T really care about animals. You care about your own selfish interests. It is all about you not about the animals. There will never be enough for China.

Jenny Forrest

Hi JV,

You have always done while others talk, they tend to have a variable type of apathetic reasoning to cover there inability to do. I question too most of these anti poaching funds, promotions - where does the money go and how is it distributed, the increase in numbers reflects that these drives are not making any difference. Corruption and greed is spread far and wide with total disrespect for our wildlife at all levels. The stats say it all - a different route is required to do something meaningful.

I watch with interest, good luck I hope you and John Hume make it happen.

Greg. Kietzmann.

Hi JV,

Thanks for your newsletters which are usually very interesting to read.

If, as this person mention, Chinese don't know about the impact of the demand for such products on the wildlife, couldn't we imagine the development of a chemical molecule that could provide the same (non) effects that the real horns ? I suppose that a good lab could synthesize this kind of product quite easily...

Keep well.


Had I feeling you would not reply to me. As much as you will stand with John Hume I will stand with the right people on the other side. Since the days of Rick Lomba, when I first met you, always saw your movies, right from the first one you did and previewed at the Indaba Hotel, as what they are, all about you and the wildlife the props you use to sell yourself. All fine many have done it, i.e Mad Mike and Mark. Never thought you could be so short sighted as to have not learnt from the lessons of the past in terms of encouraging the Asian market.

Cheers Mike Gunn.

Dear JV,

It never ceases to amaze me how those against the Rhino trade almost always start off with a false assumption: “any trade in rhino horn will fuel the demand”. Unlike the vices of our time, drugs, alcohol and tobacco, rhino horn is not addictive, and by all accounts, does not even have the medicinal properties that are claimed of it. So why should some supply cause a greater demand? It makes no sense.

Anyone with a knowledge of economics will know the very strict inverse correlation between supply and price. Given the same demand, high supply will mean low prices, and low supply will mean high prices. The current insanely high black-market price for rhino horn is a direct result of restricting the supply. With sky-high prices poaching is sure to follow.

Demand for Rhino horn in the East is driven by a centuries-old belief in its medicinal properties. Anyone who thinks the believers can be ‘educated’ out of those beliefs should consider the possibilities of ‘educating’ Europe and America out of believing in horoscopes and homeopathy. And then try educating indigenous Africans away from Sangomas and N’angas. Possible? Not likely. And by the time you try, the rhino will most certainly be extinct.

The other often-quoted misconception is that legal trade “could never supply the demand.”

Firstly, we have almost no knowledge of what the demand really is. As there is almost no supply into the market, it therefore has ‘mythical’ properties. Once you actually started meeting the demand, is it not probable that the ‘mythical’ status would fall away, revealing rhino horn for what it is – overpriced hair/nail?

Secondly, given a lead-up time to increase the herd, very significant amounts of horn could be produced by free-ranging ranched animals. These animals could be a huge financial benefit to the rural populations of Africa, as they are potentially more profitable than cattle farming. They are also indigenous, require almost no chemicals, and are therefore more eco-friendly than most forms of animal husbandry.

People’s reactions to farming rhino for horn are almost always driven by emotion. Shock! Horror! “It’s cruel!”. The world needs to learn to make decisions based on understanding and logic, not emotion. Rhino farming is less cruel than almost any other type of animal husbandry, and is probably the last hope for the white rhino.

40 years of traditional conservation has driven the rhino to the brink of extinction. Now is our last chance to try another option.


Gary Hume


I trust you are well. I have tried calling quite a few times, especially after your accident, but haven't managed to get through

Thank you for your newsletter, I read them with great interest.

I would like to add my 2c worth to this debate.

For a long time I have been sitting on the fence with regards to the sale of rhino horn: I understand powerful arguments from both sides.

I respect you greatly as a friend, conservationist and pioneer, but must disagree on a couple of points.

In response to: So kindly tell me where the sale of ivory at auctions has fuelled the poaching of elephants in South Africa?

The sale of ivory has not fuelled the poaching of rhinos in South Africa. That I agree with. Not yet..but our time is coming.
It fuelled the poaching of elephant everywhere else, where the security is not the same as in SA: just like with the rhinos...even though SA has for most of recent history been the stronghold of the rhino, we were the last country to receive the focus of the poaching.

How many elephants were killed in Africa last year? Very few people know about this....... 38 000!

I see and agree with so much of the debate FOR the sale of rhino (bar my total disgust at giving into the evils behind it) BUT for me there is one big hole.

We do not know the market.

Legalize the sale of rhino horn and you legalise the market. And then you legalise marketing. Research shows most people in the East do not use or even know of the use of rhino horn. Imagine now suddenly we allow advertising to the populations of China and Vietnam. Massive billboards in their cities. TV commercials with famous Chinese actors grinding and ingesting the powder, endorsing it. Once that ball has started rolling it will be too late to reverse.

I believe firmly in focusing our attention on high profile delegates from the East: and this is where I believe someone like you or Dave with your spheres of influence can come in. It is said that the whole of China is governed by 10 men. Is it that impossible for us to get a few ministers from China and Vietnam out for a three day safari? Put them with the right guide, show them some live rhinos, show them the beauty of these creatures, and then tell them the story that they probably don't even know about?

I don't believe the helicopters and weapons and ground crew will bring this to a halt: and even if it did be sure that it would spell the end for all rhinos elsewhere.

I find myself wondering about a world where it is too much to ask our president to address his counterparts in China and Vietnam and ask for their help, while we spend millions fighting this war.

We need to find heroes. And we need them in the East.

In the meantime I will personally try to find a way to Mr. Zuma to implore his help.

I hope we can catch up soon


I read your first email in total horror and for it to come from all people, you had be a little shocked

However I have given this a lot of thought, read all the comments and now your latest reply

The U.S.A government use drug money to fund their drug wars, like you say we need a lot of money to out man and have use of the state of the art equipment which does not come cheap. Let the word get out if you are caught you are either shot or sent to prison for a very long time

So yes I will stick my neck out and say I support your decision, no Rhinos were killed for the stock pile of horn and let these horns save the one's living from a gruesome painful death

Amanda Ruddy

Hi JV,

Please understand Sir I like you and respect you, but we do not completely agree on this one. Since you want to know where you have it wrong I think I can help. While I agree that South Africa has had great Success, so many other countries have had the numbers plummet for Elephants and Rhinos. Asia included with Africa. Some don't have anymore. This is also indisputable brother. True armed guards on the ground and Air power help. Some places are not so armed in protecting these great animals. I get that, but your theory is not so clear cut.

One off sales do help feed demand and keep businesses involved in this trade in Asia, going. How often can you have one off sales? I doubt the same money overall can be made from that as straight up illegal trade. When your Rhinos and Elephants are the only ones left, you think the value won't be so high that those who pay poachers, won't arm them as well or better.

Mass education does need to take place in Asia. That has to happen as well as in Africa and the middle east, and Europe and America, etc otherwise armed people will only do so much. Even idiots outside of Asia take part in buying these things products made from the slaughter of magnificent creatures.

Let me give you a different analogy to help you understand where I am coming from brother.

In America drugs are illegal. Organized crime is illegal. Human smuggling of people to immigrate illegally is also against the rules. Our police, and federal law enforcement agencies are very well armed. Among the best armed in the world. We have always had harsh sentences. Building prisons is a big business in the United States. We also have the most legally well-armed citizenry in the world. That slows crime, but doens't stop it. We have many fools that murder each other, even people who once seemed normal then went nuts on the rest of us. You agree I am sure that so far I am giving you indisputable facts. We now even have a government that is using unmanned drones in the fight against crime despite the concerns of basic human and civil rights leaders

Our Military is even involved in some law enforcement for border defense because of human smugglers I think our immigration policy should be easier to become American, but the cartels would never stop and just find something else) , drugs, and gang activity etc.

We have millions of young people, especially men in jail all over the country. America has one of the highest percentages of its population in prison. Law enforcement uses deadly force if it has to and they do everyday, our criminals kill each other by the thousands every month, but millions of people continue to join the ranks of gangs, organized drug cartels, deal drugs, human smuggling, etc. They are not deterred. If a person is desperate enough, poor enough for long enough, they don't value their own life or anyone else' s. I have relatives in law enforcement. They've seen it all. It won't stop. The poverty abroad is even worse than America. If all of our guns and prisons won't stop those horrors what makes you think there won't be people who say I'll risk it, even when yours are the last. The Cartels on the US border are often better armed than our border patrol agents and police.

By the way Since Tigers and even now leopards in Asia are nearly wiped out, how much longer will it be before the African lions and leopards (who I understand are already being replaced for tiger bone) before they take the full brunt of it? After that it will be the Jaguar and the Mountain Lion. My country is proof , Force is not always enough, education is also needed as well as economic incentive. An extremely high percentage of people who go into crime come from impoverished situations.

You think all the armed guards for your parks will turn down money to look the other way or not even help in the poaching if they are paid more than what you pay? You going to give them a piece of the one -off sale as a bonus? Some one will be mad if they don't get a piece of the action. We always have law enforcement in the U.S. that turn over to the wrong side. Know why? Because the illegal side always pays better$$$.

Do you think the American govt should have one-offs of confiscated drugs just to help law enforcement fight illegal drugs? Should they have a one-off sale where human smugglers can pay to have a free day to smuggle human beings like cattle or slaves, in boats to our shores or across our borders? Do you think that would help stop those problems? Sadly, this last paragraph is in line with your thinking bro'.

Please re-think your position. I'd rather you gave the poachers the proverbial 'Yankee finger' and burned all of the tusks and horns! There must be a different answer!


Jason Fisher
Las Vegas, Nevada

I suppose you will have seen the attached short article which appeared in a recent SA Journal of Science but if not it might provide you with some ammunition because I think Brian Child is saying pretty much what you're saying just that he gives different examples.


Mark Ingle

From Facebook:

Tom L Tochterman

I don't know Mr. Varty or even if he reads these these threads but in case he is/does, here we go again;

Mr. JV, how do you reconcile a legitimate government condoning the exploitation and fraudulent use of a threatened or endangered species (or for any living thing for that matter)? The argument that you and others have invested in Rhino over the last 50 years has no bearing on the question. Those monetary "investments" were simply choices made based on speculation. You, me and all interested parties must not lose sight of the ethical side of this crisis; you and me as conservationist are duty bound to take the higher road and selling animal parts to people for the purpose of status symbols or bogus medicine is simply not right and must not be tolerated. The likes of you and me must find a better way to deal with the well financed syndicates rather than simply work within their vision, mission, and objectives! Bottom line; you and I both know the end user is being defrauded, how do we sleep at night?

From Facebook:

Terry Bengis

John Varty your heart is in the right place, its just your method that is wanting, to brazenly break the law puts you in the same place as the strikers who kill maim and destroy. There has to be a LEGAL way to fix this problem and the Government has to realise that, CITES has to realise that, we all know that what perplexes us is the HOW!

The real issue here is how to stop the Killing, Varty and others have a different view, that in itself has nothing wrong, we have to be careful not to judge people because the have that different view, what we need to do is to make sure that our view prevails. What we need now is an argument that finds a way that stops the killing, if we could find common ground then we might get somewhere, remember while we have all the good intentions and in our opinion the moral high ground it might just be that we dont know it all...

Terry Bengis Hett Hetty Vink, you are right and it is true that some are looking for a return, but as conservationist and activists in that cause we have to look at the efficacy of what we do and decide if criticism, anger, finger pointing and so on is effective because given the figures this past week it may just be that all the wild rhinos will soon be dead and the survivors are on so called "looking for return" farms...

Elizabeth Davie

JV a billion Asians - a few tons of Rhino horn for sale: You do the math.........

Hi John,

I do believe it is disrespectful and disingenuous to talk about "there is no slaughter of elephants in SA" when we know I am referring to Africa and throughout your letter you talk about soft and hard targets and one day we may become soft targets too as we have become with the rhino, a very soft target. Anyway that aside, we are obviously talking at cross purposes, I am now of the belief that you wish the tiger trade to be open again and that maybe the sale of tigers and their parts will be available to you if you can fight for the rhino trade to be opened. Its the only excuse I can come up with or this letter to John Hume.


Melissa Weavind

Cam Steele

Mr Varty is doing some brilliant things in the name of conservation and his dedication to it, is to be commended... I read with Interest Mr Varty's proposal, the comments to his proposal and his reply to them. My determination to see the Legalized trade in Rhino Horn and Elephant Ivory prevented, is as strong now as ever... Having been a guest of Dr Ian Player, KZN Wildlife and Adrian Gardiner at Shamwari in South Africa, I had the unique opportunity to participate in Rhino captures and relocation and to discuss and witness Wildlife Conservation at the forefront with the pioneers and world leaders in this. I know their stance which is the same as mine and it was great to see dedicated people with the same ambition. Will the legalized sale of Rhino Horn and Elephant Ivory save the Rhino and Elephant from Extinction - Not for a minute will it! It does not in any way reduce demand!!! The greatest demand for the products illegally is from the new rising middle and upper middle class of China. They are well educated, often well traveled and are the new wealth of Asia in fact the world. They do not care of the plight of the Elephant, Rhino, Bear or Tiger for Ivory, Bear Bile, Tiger Bones and Rhino horn for Chinese medicine, just as they do not care how it is obtained. They are enjoying their status and new found wealth. 5 years ago we did not see the horrendous poaching levels that is now existing. Wildlife was successfully being protected and reintroduced to areas it had once roamed. Suddenly, thru China's economic boom, this changed and the the plight of Rhino, Elephant and Tiger plunged to the sickening depths of despair we see now... Mr Varty has made comparisons with how the moneys from the legalized sale of wildlife products ie: Ivory and Rhino Horn, will help save and protect these animals from extinction. I have read sources stating that it will reduce the current sale price thru the legalized sale and that flooding the market with legal sale products will achieve this. How naive people are! We have species here small in number that are sliding to extinction from a recent massive increase in demand that has escalated to a level that supply will not satisfy demand and demand is growing by the day. There aren't enough Rhino, Elephant and Tiger to achieve this mystical arrangement. We should be reducing the demand, not "FUELING" it! The Chinese to satisfy demand for Tiger Bones for medicinal wine and Bear Bile for for local medicine, have established vast farming operations to satisfy these markets. Farming operations so shocking in their operation and cruelty that they defy belief. Farming Tigers has not halted the now out of control slaughter of Tigers in the wild. Nor have the Sun and Moon Bears been saved from the slaughter. The Chinese market, knowing that it can not get enough Tiger bones for its wine trade from its current farming and illegal poaching operations, is now sourcing Lion bones as a substitute to fill the void. WHERE DOES IT END??? Answer is - While demand is there, IT Doesn't!!! Legalized forestry logging has existed for hundreds of years, yet it has not prevented the now booming Multi Billion Dollar "ILLEGAL" logging trade. Nor have the legalized logging businesses been able to successfully fund and protect the existing forests from the illegal trade.... In the past 5 years we have witnessed illegal deforestation on a scale never imagined - it is out of control in Asia, Africa and South America. Participants in this illegal plunder include the organized crime syndicates that have branched out from drugs and firearms, The Military, Politicians, business big and small, right thru to even conservation personnel. The same goes for the multi billion dollar illegal fishing industry that is raping the oceans of fish stocks. Mr Varty's plan does not address the major factors - how to reduce the New escalating and thriving "DEMAND" from China and the "Corruption and Organized criminal Syndicates" that are providing it. They will not go away - legal trade or illegal trade. How can a legalized market successfully operate within this. It can't!!! If you want to save the wildlife of the world, you need to reduce the demand in them as physically consumable products... While there is a massive escalating demand in their body parts you will one day only see these animals in magazines, zoos and on TV! It is no secret that China saved its Giant Panda from the doorstep of extinction in an almost instant turn around and none of its body parts are used and it is not framed or hunted! I see no mention of Boycotting China to reign in their demand for Rhino Horn, Ivory, Tiger and Bear products??? I see no mention of demanding Govt to utilize the armed forces to assist protecting wild populations??? Mining companies are profiting Billions of Dollars from Africa. Many South African Mining companies are making immense profits from outside of Africa - I see no mention of asking Govt for Taxes applied to Mining Wealth which could easily assist funding protection??? I see no mention of an airport arrival fee [ie:$10.00] for every person who enters South Africa, a fee that goes to protection of the nations most endangered species. But I do see people determined to keep a demand growing, turning this demand into a legalized business and monetary profit... I can never understand why the world pussy foots around China and allows it to do as it pleases, when it pleases and how it pleases! They are the backbone of the illegal markets, they are the central issue. The shame mankind carries is that it insists on placing a dollar value on everything and making a dollar out of it, insisting that if it doesn't pay its way it can not survive!!! Actually - it is pathetic... The world has been exploited, raped and ruined by the human race. Nature has given until it can give no more and we still want to take the little that is left! There are many great people doing some wonderful things out there in the world of conservation. How about everyone that is financially stable give a little bit and help out??? A few dollars, a few minutes of time - it isn't going to kill you! Help protect and help crush the demand!!!!!

John… thanks for all the info. Will send this around and spread the Gospel.. We South Africans are the only people that can combat this crime.. I Believe in what you say and the way you explained it makes so much sense.. Keep it up.

Anton Welman

I have been an avid reader and viewer of many documentaries on wild life poaching.

I admire JV for all the work he has done, and if he is adamant on the auction, so be it, he would know best. 

And may view re the poachers – shoot them first then ask questions – if they can answer them. 

It all boils down to PROFIT, for those who are shady characters, and don’t give a shit.  

Thelma Carpenter

I would like to applaud you for your forward thinking with regards the trade in Rhino horn and your letter to John Hume.

Unfortunately the South African government cannot even protect their farmers who have been slaughtered much like the Rhino, so one has to question how long it will take for them to get any meaningful policy in place to stem the tide of Rhino deaths. Inevitably it is always a group of concerned citizens who put their faith in the possibility that reason will eventually prevail but who put their own lives(and finances) on the line in order to prevent catastrophe while waiting for the rest to catch up.

The reality is that although the anti poaching measures being implemented will be useful short term they cannot be sustained long term as the finances will dry up when the Rhino cause is no longer so popular, whereas Rhino owners/breeders who are allowed to trade will be able to restock parks and finance the protection of their own animals while increasing the numbers and removing the Rhino from possible extinction

The Rhino is blessed to have something valuable enough to ensure its survival, and I am sure given the choice would happily part with its horn(which will grow back) rather than its life, after all, nobody killed the golden goose to get its egg!!




John… thanks for all the info. Will send this around and spread the Gospel.. We South Africans are the only people that can combat this crime.. I Believe in what you say and the way you explained it makes so much sense.. Keep it up.

Anton Welman





Tread lightly on the Earth

Copyright 2007 @jvbigcats  All rights reserved


Newsletters 172
Failing Rivers

Newsletters 163
Open letter to leader of the DA Party

Newsletters 162
Raising 200

Newsletters 161
Reach for 200

Newsletters 160
The Power of the Photograph

Newsletter 159
Predator Aggression

Newsletters 158
Open letter to Cyril Ramaphosa

Newsletter 157
SCI bans canned lion hunting

Newsletters 156
Tibo produces white cubs

Newsletters 155
The Indian Connection

Newsletters 154

Newsletter 153
Supermarket Shopper vs. Hunter Gatherer

Newsletter 152
JV's response to Elayna Kinley letter

Newsletters 151
Running on empty

Newsletter 150
The Survivor

Newsletters 149
In pursuit of Alan Root

Newsletters 148
Open letter re schools plus Panna cubs

Newsletters 147
It's Finished

Newsletters 146

Newsletter 145
King Corbett

Newsletter 144
Hunting versus Non Hunting

Newsletter 143
If it Pays, it Stays

Newsletters 142
Best Photographs at
Tiger Canyons

Newsletters 141
Lady Hunters

Newsletter 140
Londolozi and Love

Newsletter 139
Life is Not Fair

Newsletter 138
The Trump Card

Newsletter 137
Most Admired People on the Planet

Newsletters 136
Captive vs Wild

Newsletter 135
To trade  or not To Trade

Newsletter 134
A Defining Moment

Newsletter 133
I Have Lost A Friend

Newsletter 132
The World is Changing

Newsletter 131
Icon Cats

Newsletter 130
Sylvester the Lion

Newsletter 129
An Open Letter to Head United Nations

Newsletter 128
An Open Letter to Carte Blanche

Newsletter 127
Satellite Tracking

Newsletter 126
Lightning strikes 3 times

Newsletter 125
The Break Out

Newsletter 124
Bad Tigers

Newsletter 123
Tiger Boy's Journey

Newsletter 122
Give it a Name

Newsletter 121
Driven Hunts

Newsletter 120
Creative Conservation

Newsletter 119
Sariska from birth till death

Newsletter 118
Real Hunters

Newsletter 117
An Open Letter to the President: Operation Wild Lion

Newsletter 116
An Open Letter to Theo Bronkhorst

Newsletter 115
Cruel Nations

Newsletter 114
Subspecies or no subspecies

Newsletter 113
Tigers Moving Forward

Newsletter 112
Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Newsletter 111
Don't Shoot the Messenger

Newsletter 110
The Hunters

Newsletter 109
Gaia or God?

Newsletter 108
The Healing Power of Cats

Newsletter 107
Goddess Gaia

Newsletter 106
Ambassador Cats

Newsletter 105
Blondes have more fun

Gaining ground for tigers

Newsletter 103
Tibo's Dilemma

Newsletter 102
Wilderness Man

Newsletter 101
Sariska fathers cubs with white Tigress Tibo

Newsletter 100
Cheetah Survival

Newsletter 99
Extract from JV's speech on Corbett's Freedom Day

Newsletter 98
The Power of the Picture

Newsletter 97
Tiger Corbett's Release

Newsletter 96
Corbett's Journey

Newsletter 95
Bush School: Where are they now?

Newsletter 94
Open letter to Jani Allen: Oscar Pistorius

Newsletter 93
John Varty interview with Sizie Modise

Newsletter 92
Marion's Big Cat Safari

Newsletter 91
Full energy flow

Newsletter 90
Investing in wild tigers

Newsletter 89
Where are the Champions?

Newsletter 88
Managing the Genes

Newsletter 87
Capture the Moment

Newsletter 86
The Princess Diana of Tigers - Julie:
 Sept 1999 - 5 Des 2013

Newsletter 85
The Communicators

Newsletter 84
A Letter to All Conservationists in SA 
Sparked by the whole Melissa Bachman Debacle
by Maxine Gaines

Newsletter 83
Tell me what happened

Newsletter 82
Profit is the Name of Your Game

Newsletter 81

Big Cat Cub Safari

Newsletter 80
In the Jaws of the Tiger

Newsletter 79
Open letter to Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa about rhino crisis

Newsletter 78
Open letter to Min of Defense, South Africa about rhino crisis

Newsletter 77
Digital Photography

Newsletter 76

Newsletter 75
Rhino Horn Trade - Response

Newsletter 74
Raw Power

Newsletter 73
The Evolution of the Tracker

Newsletter 72
An Open Letter to the Honourable Edna Molewa, Minister of Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs

Newsletter 71
Using flash or spotlight on cats at night

Newsletter 70
Mirror mirror on the wall, who has the best eyesight of them all?

Newsletter 69
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fastest of them all?

Newsletter 68
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best fighter of them all?

Newsletters 67
Wild Cheetah return to the Free State after 100 years

Newsletter 66
Seeking the genes

Newsletters 65
Corbett's Journey

Newsletters 64
In Search of a Mate

Newsletters 63
Rumble in the Jungle

Newsletters 62
Voronin Big Cat Safari Breaks All Records

Newsletters 61
A Journey to Nowhere

Newsletter 60
The John Hume Approach

Newsletter 59
Response to Rhino Horn Auction

Newsletters 58
A Letter to John Hume, SA biggest Rhino Breeder

Newsletters 57
Newsletters 56
Indian Government -
the wrong decision

Newsletter 55
What price must beauty pay?

Newsletter 54
Corbett's Freedom

Newsletter 53
Lethal injection or Freedom

Newsletters 52
The anatomy of an aggressive tiger

Newsletters 51
Majestic, breathtaking pictures

Newsletters 50
Tigress Calendar

Newsletters 49

Let your pictures do the talking

Newsletters 48

Rhino Wars

Newsletters 47
A Letter to the President

Newsletters 46
The Body Parts Scam

Newsletters 45
Tiger Subspecies

Newsletters 43
Your future and the Tiger

Newsletter 42
Talk to Me

Newsletter 41
Gaian Reminder

Newsletter 40
Ron's Journey

Newsletter 39

Newsletter 38
Beauty comes at a price

Newsletter 37

The Light Has Gone Out

Newsletter 36
The Beautiful Game

Newsletter 35
The Ethics of
Tiger Green Hunting

Newsletter 34
Tiger Hunt

Newsletter 33
The Year of the Tiger

Newsletter 32

Riding the Tiger

Newsletter 31

Runti's Journey

Newsletter 30

To intervene or not to intervene -
that is the question...

Newsletter 29

Lion - Tiger - Human Communication

Newsletter 28

Emotional humans, emotional cats

Newsletter 27

Julie gives birth to 5 tiger cubs

Newsletter 26

International Tiger Day

Newsletter 25

To all Photographers

Newsletter 24

A Shot in Anger

Newsletter 22

Newsletter 21

Newsletter 19

Tiger Birth
at Tiger Canyons

Newsletter 16

Tiger Courting

Newsletter 11

Privatizing the Tiger

Newsletter 9

Newsletter 8

Newsletter 7

Water Cats

Newsletter 6

Tiger Intelligence

Newsletter 5

Tiger language
Tiger Boma

Newsletter 3

Interspecies communication

Newsletter 2

Cub relocation


Death of a Legend

Newsletter 20

Newsletter 15

Painted Wolves

Newsletter 13

Response to Elephant Trust
by Daryl Balfour

Newsletter 12

Elephant Trust