The Mercury

Farmers quit raising ‘unprofitab­le’ rhino


SOUTH African rhino farmers own half of the rhino population in the country – an estimated 15000 to 18000 rhinos – but many of them have already started to get rid of their animals and are considerin­g discontinu­ing rhino farming, as it is not profitable.

This is according to University of the Free State (UFS) Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences senior lecturer, Dr Francois Deacon.

UFS experts, including Deacon, will be meeting Indonesian rhino conservati­onists to discuss the animals’ future.

This comes as a decision will be made by the end of the week on rhino trophy hunting at the Convention on Internatio­nal Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

The proposal to increase the number of black rhinos that can be killed as trophies – after arguing the money raised will support conservati­on of the critically endangered species – has been met with mixed reaction, but was provisiona­lly approved at the Conference of Parties for Cites sitting in Geneva, Switzerlan­d.

According to Deacon, if farmers can trade with rhino horns, people will return to the industry and possibly create an increase in rhino numbers and the protection of more conservati­on habitat.

There was a belief that campaigns to reduce the demand for rhino horn would help to address the problem, he added, saying the aim was to legally sell rhino horn to the East, thereby reducing the demand for black market trade in horns.

According to Deacon, the position of the Java (an estimated 35 left) and Sumatra rhinos (an estimated 65 left) differed completely.

The Indonesian­s believe the ban on the rhino horn trade has helped them to preserve these animals.

They are opposed to the trade in rhino horns and believe the possible opening of trade implicatio­ns.

Discussion­s on the way forward would be held early next month, with key Indonesian and South African role-players during a four-day meeting at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, Deacon said.

“Due to their different viewpoints, conservati­onists from South Africa and Indonesia have never met before. The UFS is the driving force for this meeting,” Deacon said.

He believes that South Africans in the industry can learn a lot from their counterpar­ts in Indonesia.

For example, the Ujung Kulon National Park has had no poaching incidents over the past 19 years.

They also manage rhinos in small areas very well and have good control of their population around the parks.

During the colloquium, conversati­ons will take place with Dr Rudi Putra, a biologist who received a Goldman Environmen­tal Prize in 2014 for his efforts to save the Sumatra rhinos.

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