It is important to understand that rhino are not being poached because of the ban on the sale of rhino horn: ergo, lifting the ban cannot get to the root of the problem.Rhino are being poached because African governments have neither the political will nor the competence to manage their game parks effectively.Therefore, the savage persecution of rhino must inevitably continue, whether or not the sale of rhino horn is legalised.The only question is whether lifting the ban would mitigate a horrendous situation. The claims of the proponents of lifting the ban are hopelessly optimistic and unrealistic, but we should still remain open minded. The imponderables are such that no one knows.Will legalising the trade allow poachers to filter into the system poached horn – and pass it off as legal horn? This has happened with the ivory trade: when the ban was lifted, poaching increased exponentially. Should game farmers be allowed to farm with rhino? Well, if their grisly trade provides a funnel into a legal market, and this allows poachers to piggy- back their poached horn on that “legal” trade, then the game farmers‟ farming activities will impact adversely upon conservation – even if they themselves are divorced from it.What is wrong with the economic approach is that it tries to justify animal exploitation by numbers – both animal and dollars. But numbers alone are hopelessly inadequate to understand environmental degradation – or to fight it. In effect, the financial approach tries to shoe-horn all the complexities of social and environmental paradigms in to a profit and loss account and it then wants us to buy the whole company without looking at the whole Balance Sheet. This narrow economic approach could be used by drug and human traffickers as well as car hijackers, to justify their abominable activities.Like all important social and environmental issues, rhino protection needs a broad multi-disciplinary approach.
So what are my suggestions?
First, the trade ban on rhino horn should not be lifted until we have tried more direct methods.The rigid protection of game parks has to be stepped up, and African governments have shown that they are not up to this task. Well then, let‟s think outside the box. NATO training exercises, using drones and all the latest technology, could well be held in African game parks, with a shoot to kill policy on poachers.
Second, a one-off sale of existing stocks of horns should be permitted, subject to international oversight – and auditing – on the use of the funds.
Next, poisoning of horns should be mandatory. The possession or sale of un-poisoned horn should be criminalised. (Who‟d want to buy poisoned horn?)After all we need to attack the root of the problem, which is human ignorance, vanity and greed. The ignorance of those Orientals who believe devoutly, fanatically, that rhino horn has any medicinal properties; the fatuous vanity of the Occidental trophy hunter who thinks he is a hero for hanging the head of a dead rhino on his wall, and the greed of those ruthless soldiers of fortune who will plunder and exploit our wildlife heritage in order to profit from that ignorance and vanity
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