Who will gain from rhino horn sale?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT - Adam Cruise Cape Town

THE HOPE of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Edna Molewa to ob­tain in­ter­na­tional ap­proval for a “one-off ” sale of the stock­piled rhino horns is aimed, says her depart­ment, at de­stroy­ing the boom­ing trade of horn on the black mar­ket.

South Africa has 18 tons of stock­piled horn, 16 in govern­ment hands and two in pri­vate hands. The black mar­ket price for rhino horn is roughly $16 000/kg (R160 000/kg), mak­ing the value of our stock­pile R10 bil­lion.

Judg­ing from the gen­er­ally pos­i­tive re­sponse from the pub­lic, it looks as if the pro-trade lobby is gain­ing ground. But we need to be vig­i­lant, be­cause this ap­proach is not as phil­an­thropic to rhi­nos as it ap­pears.

Should the sale go ahead, there are two nig­gling ques­tions. First, to whom are we go­ing to sell the horn? Not the il­le­gal traders, I hope. Chi­nese busi­ness­men? The Chi­nese govern­ment? What about the Viet­namese? Some­one in Asia is set to make a huge fi­nan­cial gain, and how will they dis­trib­ute the horn and to whom? There is no open mar­ket, so it will be in­ter­est­ing to find out – if we can – where all that horn goes. And don’t th­ese ques­tions need to be ad­dressed be­fore we can seek ap­proval for the sale?

Sec­ond, and this ques­tion is a lit­tle more dis­qui­et­ing, who is set to gain in South Africa by such a sale?

The govern­ment says the money from the sale should go to con­ser­va­tion. Now is that not as am­bigu­ous as it gets? And this from a govern­ment that is no­to­ri­ous for cor­rup­tion and mis­spending pub­lic funds.

Who or what in con­ser­va­tion is go­ing to ben­e­fit? Is it SANParks? If so, will the funds be used to com­bat fur­ther rhino poach­ing or are they just to line the pock­ets of the big­wigs?

Fur­ther­more, those pri­vate indi- vid­u­als sit­ting on their col­lec­tion of rhino horn are al­most cer­tainly set to make a huge, per­sonal, fi­nan­cial gain.

It’s also no­tice­able that they are mak­ing the loud­est noise in the pro­trade lobby. I can’t see th­ese “farm­ers” be­ing al­tru­is­tic enough to send the sale money to the preser­va­tion of the species. Some­thing about their clam­our­ing to lift the ban smacks of the canned lion plague and I won’t be sur­prised if they are soon swop­ping their Hiluxes for Range Rovers.

Call this a con­spir­acy the­ory – and hope­fully it’s just that – but I think we as the pub­lic need to watch this space very closely be­cause we all know it is not be­yond our politi­cians and so­called “con­ser­va­tion­ists” to get their grubby paws mud­died in this macabre but most lu­cra­tive of trades.

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