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
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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 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
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
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
I hope we can talk soon
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
THE WITNESS - PIETERMARITZBURG,
OCTOBER 16, 2012
Refer Saturday Star 03/11/11 --
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
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
“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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Great answer. Keep up the good work.
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!!
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.
PS ‘SAVE THE
RHINO, CAN THE POACHERS’!!!!
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
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.
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...
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
Cheers Mike Gunn.
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
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 –
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
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.
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
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
The sale of ivory has not fuelled the
poaching of rhinos in South Africa. That
I agree with. Not yet..but our time is
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
JV a billion Asians - a few tons of
Rhino horn for sale: You do the
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!!
EXCELLENT IDEA. TRY TO GET ALL THE SOCIAL NETWORKS ALSO
INVOLVED. INVITE SOME OF THE MINISTERS LIKE THE ONES IN TOURISM,
MARINE AND WILDLIFE. GO BIG WITH THIS ONE!
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.