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Bugs

The Conservation Imperative

86 posts in this topic

Wow - I have some catching up to do.

 

Our view is that we should put faith in the committee of enquiry - which is a panel of 23 experts with a range of specialities. I think we can commend the government in taking this step and I know a number of the experts on the panel. They have a huge responsibility and are approaching this very seriously, they have all the information and when they make a decision, I guess we will have to accept it whatever it is. What is important is that we support the decision and should they choose to go in favour of lifting the trade ban - other members of CITES should take note of the effort made to deliberate over this subject and give credit to their motivation.

 

Having attended the stakeholders meeting where presentations were made to the panel to motivate them either way - the results were that there were 53 presentations and 7 written - 59% were pro trade, 28% were anti trade and 13% neutral.

 

I must say that over the three days of the seminar - I never heard a new argument from the pro or anti trade camp. Stereotypically anti-trade were made up of donor dependant organisations who were bowing to donor responsibilities or sensitivities, and touching heavily on the moral dilemma. None owned rhino and few had any experience in wildlife management.

 

I remember one presentation by the SPCA - where they made out that rhino were factory farmed. It was abundantly clear that they have never seen a farm with rhino on it. They showed footage of rhino in a zoo to make a point. @@douglaswise you mention "intensive" farming of rhino, but it is not typical of what people would understand intensive farming to be. The rhino roam free, and I would bet that they have no idea that they are being farmed. The trick to farming rhino lies in better production - which depends on shorter inter-calving periods. Well fed, relaxed and free roaming rhinos breed better, have stronger calves which results in fewer mortalities and extended lifespans, thus ruling out the "feedlot" perception people have of an intensive farm. I apologise, but I had to make that clear - as many people have a completely absurd idea of how rhino are farmed. Most so called rhino farms are normal game farms with rhino on them. These people have had rhinos for a number of years, and are suddenly burdened with a massive expense to keep them safe. It is unsustainable to expect these people to continue to foot the bill, and many have a plan "B" where they will move their rhino to Texas. Some have no plan "B" and will have to throw the towel in very soon. I know one farmer who is spending a million rand a month on protection alone, all from his own pocket. National Parks and reserves are pressed for cash in the first place and are only capable of picking up carcasses, and doing forensics.

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the current ban will work if the governments are committed to protection and implementing draconian laws to protect their resources (and that includes stamping out corruption), and governments in the demand countries must be geunine in halting the supplies of illegal trade.

 

 

I wish that could be the case. But one should remember that South Africa is the victim and not the problem. CITES made the rules and expect countries to uphold them. So why has there been no action against Viet Nam and China. CITES is absolutely powerless to impose any sanction on Mozambique - its one of the poorest countries in the world.

 

You should also remember that SA has its own problems. I would be the first to admit that they could do more, but that is not the case, and very little will change that. More donations and more money will not change the status at all - unless it goes to all rhino keepers and unless there is a way to meet the demand.

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@@douglaswise - back to post #27

 

You make point about the use of the horn. In reality; what they use it for is of little consequence. Its the fact that they are killing our rhino for the horn and that the horn seems to be worth so much to them that matters. I have to bow to Michael Eustace superior knowledge on the feeling that Vietnam is not the final destination, he has after all spent the better part of his retirement working on this.

 

You then ask why flooding the market is not recommended - the reason is that single speculators will buy up as much as they can and then sell it back to the market at a huge profit. It may work for a while, but it gives the control back to the dealers, and once those stocks are depleted - the price may have risen rather than gone down. It may even create new markets. Most of the economists we have spoken to are not in favour of this. A sustained supply is essential. In my previous business, we have watched opposition flood the market to win shelf space and improve their market share. This is not what we want in the case of horn.

 

Supply and demand are equal and are brought into balance with price. It may sound simplistic, but it works. Many luxury goods are sold as such, and fakes have no impact on them whatsoever. Sugarcane and timber are run by central selling organisations of sorts.

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@Bugs:

 

Thanks for the precise information.

 

It would seem that the 5000 rhinos in private hands are alone capable of generating 60%-70% of current demand annually. As you mention, other sources can eke out the rest while sufficient extra animals are bred to meet any potential shortfall. Thus, a delay in legalising to create further product would appear to be unnecessary.

 

Don't confuse demand with numbers of rhinos poached! The number of rhinos being poached keeps increasing, the price of rhino horn keeps increasing, so clearly demand is FAR from being met currently. I bet that you can easily sell 10,000 rhino horns, still for a very good price, annually with the current demand. Legalizing trade will likely even increase the demand.

 

I believe that the big reason for the illegal rhino horn trade is its illegality. We have offered an opportunity to professional criminals and syndicates and they have taken it with both hands. The have created the market and run it like their own monopoly. Poachers are disposable pawns in their business. The are highly organised and effective. They would not be in favour of a legal trade.

 

To think things will get worse if you legalise is forgetting that the trade already exists and as long as the criminal syndicates have no competition, others will see the same opportunity.

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Posted (edited)

At the risk of being completely repetitive, I strongly believe that one reason why there is no meeting of minds on this issue is because the two sides have completely different views on the meaning of the word 'conservation'. In lay terms:

 

To some, conservation is a question of maintaining or increasing the numbers of wild animals, in captivity if necessary, to ensure that said animal does not become extinct. So the notion of farming wild animals and using them 'sustainably' is a completely logical one.

 

To others, 'conservation' means protecting the conditions in which a wild animal can exist in its natural state in the wild, and to these people, sheer numbers mean little if an animal is being bred in captivity but the conditions for its survival in the wild are not being met.

 

As long as there is no agreement on this most basic question - what it is precisely that are we trying to achieve - I fear this argument will not progress. We need to agree on the purpose before we can agree on the methodolgy.

Edited by Sangeeta
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@@egilio:

 

Thank you replying to me in post #35. However, once again, I think you may have got the wrong end of the stick. This possibly suggests that I'm not making myself clear. I'll try again. At the outset, I'd like to state that I'm not an expert on this subject and have been posting with a view to gaining more factual information. However, I'm sure you'd accept the same lack of expertise - if I'm correct in believing that your short years of research have mainly involved carnivores.

 

You are clearly antipathetic to the "smart trade" model propounded by Eustace and have made the reasons for your position clear in a series of posts. I await @Bug's promised responses with interest. I do note that, on another forum, you celebrate an announcement from the Chinese Government that it will bear down heavily on the illegal ivory trade. I agree that this is encouraging, but one wonders how effective the Government's efforts will be. Might not its ability to profit from a legal ivory and horn trade provide the incentive and means to make its attempts to snuff out the illegal trade more likely to succeed?

 

The plus side of "smart trade" in rhino horn is that it seeks simultaneously to reduce poaching and, by keeping prices at extortionate levels, to generate sufficient funds to control both supply and demand as well as contributing hugely to other conservation projects. Thus, if it works as well as Eustace hopes, it would be wonderful. Whether it will prove possible however, to create effective producer and supplier cartels is a moot point. Many of @@egilio's arguments raise legitimate doubts as to practicability.

 

I raised the possibility of an alternative approach to the "smart trade" that aimed to flood the market with farmed rhino horn, thus reducing horn value and greatly increasing supply. I was attempting to seek answers which would provide information as to how far the prices would have to fall before poaching became a smaller problem and whether, at lower prices, rhino farming would be financially viable. It was also necessary to guesstimate at what level demand would stabilise. @@egilio suggested that demand might increase 5 to 10 fold at lower prices, but even this increase is not necessarily difficult to achieve from farmed production from a biological perspective. It all comes down to finance - it would have to be worthwhile for farmers to produce the increased numbers necessary to match the increased demand.

 

I went on to suggest that demand was unlikely to be inelastic. I believe it more likely that it would peak regardless of price . I also thought that, over time, demand would fall - both for jewellery and for traditional medicine, given that the first is naff and depends upon ostentatiously high value and the second will not for ever survive the influx of alternative (and effective) products.

 

I put forward the "flooding the market" approach as an alternative to the "Eustace" model in an attempt to inform the debate. I am not presently advocating it. I acknowledge that I lack the information necessary for a decision. Clearly, if the latter model works as Eustace hopes, it would be far more beneficial because it would generate huge funds for conservation over and above the saving of rhinos. The "flooding" model would, at best, protect rhino without providing other conservation benefits.

 

@@douglaswise Thanks for your reply! We all are obviously passionate about this subject. Yes, in my few research years I've focused on carnivores, but my interests range widely and I've always followed the rhino debate quite closely ever since I was in Botswana in 2003 when 2 rhinos of the first relocations were poached. I experienced first hand the increase in military personnel in our field site.

 

One thing you mentioned a few times is 'meeting the demand'. I'm skeptical if you could do that. As expressed by the skyrocketing price current demand is overwhelmingly bigger than current supply.

Currently about 1,200 rhinos per year get poached. For now, let's focus on white rhinos. Let's say of the 1,200 about 1,000 are white rhinos. So about 5% of the population gets poached. White rhino can breed at about 12% so could potentially sustain this poaching pressure (if it doesn't increase, which isn't true as it does agree).

An average set of horns weighs about 4-5 kgs, but lets take 4 kg in this example. So about 4,000 kg of white rhino horn got poached in 2014.

 

Now look at the numbers estimated by Bugs: 5,000 rhinos in private hands, 4,000 could be used for horn harvesting, and let's assume all of these are white rhinos. They could produce about 900 grams of horn per year per rhino. That's 3,600 kg sustainably harvested (less than what was poached in 2014!), and this could increase with about 10-12% per year if the population in private hands go well. This legal supply could be augmented with rhino horns from stocks, estimated at about 15,000 kg from the government and 4,000 from private hands.

 

As current demand far outweighs current supply (as reflected by the price) and one wants to significantly reduce the price to reduce poaching incentives one would have to flood the market, and keep the market flooded. Even doubling the supply could only be sustained for about 5 years, after which the stocks have run out and the sustainably harvested population can't have grown to a population who could sustain it at that time, resulting in price increase again.

Keeping the price up, won't reduce the incentives for poachers, and poaching pressure, especially on public lands, where most of rhino population resides, will remain high.

 

Haven't read the other replies yet, and got to leave now, but will come back to this topic later today.

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@Bugs:

 

Thank you for your responses. It will be interesting to discover what the expert committee of enquiry finally decides. If it adjudges that supply and demand can be matched at the current price and that cartels of producers and purchasers can be created and work together, one would hope that the funding generated would be sufficient to impact levels of poaching.

 

@egilio:

 

I appreciate the trouble you have taken to respond. You are more up to date than I on the rhino situation. I was at Lewa for some time in the mid 1980s and was very peripherally involved with the establishment of the rhino sanctuary there. However, I have subsequently worked in the UK and only visited Africa on holidays.

I don't know enough either to agree or disagree with your assumption that current demand far exceeds current supply. If your judgement is based on per kg horn price rises over time, it would be instructive to see the data and the shape of the graph. If not, what other evidence informs your judgement?

You did say that the maintenance of high prices would not reduce incentives to poach. Did you consider, when making that statement, that a significant proportion of profits from legal trade could directed against both poachers and purchasers of illegal stocks?

You have made clear that the "flooding the market" approach is not a goer. I should have been able to calculate that for myself. I stated that it would be biologically possible greatly to increase farmed rhino stocks, but signally failed to work out that it couldn't be achieved at the necessary rate.

 

@Sangeeta:

 

I think most conservationists would prefer to see wild animals in unmanaged habitats. Next best would be mixed species natural habitats with only as much human intervention as necessary to manage those species that would otherwise become so numerous as to destroy other species or the habitats themselves. Unfortunately, as man takes over more and more land area, wildlife gets squeezed and often pushed to marginal areas. These anthropogenic effects necessitate increasing intervention by wild life managers.

I think that, as far as this debate is concerned, all those who have favoured rhino farming almost certainly do not see it as an end in itself, merely as a means by which the possibility of continuing survival of rhinos in the wild becomes more likely.

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@egilio:

 

I appreciate the trouble you have taken to respond. You are more up to date than I on the rhino situation. I was at Lewa for some time in the mid 1980s and was very peripherally involved with the establishment of the rhino sanctuary there. However, I have subsequently worked in the UK and only visited Africa on holidays.

I don't know enough either to agree or disagree with your assumption that current demand far exceeds current supply. If your judgement is based on per kg horn price rises over time, it would be instructive to see the data and the shape of the graph. If not, what other evidence informs your judgement?

You did say that the maintenance of high prices would not reduce incentives to poach. Did you consider, when making that statement, that a significant proportion of profits from legal trade could directed against both poachers and purchasers of illegal stocks?

You have made clear that the "flooding the market" approach is not a goer. I should have been able to calculate that for myself. I stated that it would be biologically possible greatly to increase farmed rhino stocks, but signally failed to work out that it couldn't be achieved at the necessary rate.

 

Money made with legal rhino sales flows back to the owners, which will increase the protection of their rhinos. But most rhinos, the ones on public land do not participate in the program, and thus won't receive increased protection measurements. Except, for the ones which are moved to IPZ's and are de-horned on a regular basis.

 

 

@@Sangeeta I don't mind, some species can only be saved in captivity (several Asian turtles for example, some of them discovered on Chinese food markets), other animals simply can't be kept in captivity and the wild conditions should be preserved (blue whales for example). And for yet other animals, both scenarios can work, in those cases I would hinge towards wild if populations are at certain levels, and population parameters and threats to those don't indicate a threat for the species in the near future. But if (local) exctinction in the near future is probable, I wouldn't object captive breeding programs. This scenario has been proven in the past too (Californian condors for example). For rhinos there is a large free-roaming population under intense threats (Kruger) and many small populations in private hands, also under considerable threat. Private owners are desperate to protect their possessions and seeking ways to do so, one of them being able to sell the precious horns. I very much understand their viewpoint, but I think one should also think of the larger populations which are not in private hands.

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@@egilio perhaps you could tell me the estimated demand for a Ferrari - I am sure you will say that everyone wants one, but few can afford one - some have to settle for copies, but that doesnt affect the number of Ferraris sold. I am also sure everyone will buy a Rolex if they were affordable - but they only sell 2000 rolexe watches a year.

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@@Sangeeta - there are a few definitions of conservation. One of the best I heard was from Ron Thomson. He said conservation is management. When you decide that you want to conserve something or a number of things - management is essential.

 

Lets say they have decided to conserve iSimangaliso park - they will have highlighted a number of reasons why - its to protect the sand dunes, the fisheries and the unique lake systems as well as specific animals which are endemic or very successful in the area. They will then manage the area as such, and ensure what they have set out to achieve is done.

 

Protectionism is then part of conservation, and part of management. Dr Brian Child can be quoted in one of the clips saying that the biggest threat to conservation is habitat loss. In the case of the rhino - that is also true. Although there is plenty of raw habitat for rhino, the habitat for rhino is becoming "toxic" - in other words unsafe. It is clear that part of the solution is to move rhino to safe habitat, and it is also true that we need to continue to make rhino habitat secure. But this comes at a cost, and the donor industry are hardly helping.

 

Fundraising from donor organisations are inefficient - if you look at the combined effort that IFAW, HSUS, HSI, Born Free and PETA do by raising $170 Million - yet only one penny in every dollar goes to sub saharan Africa.

 

Simply put the most effective way of getting funds to the right source is for the rhino to buy its own way out of this dilemma.

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@@Bugs I thinks that's an invalid comparison. Many many hours go into making a ferrari, that's one reason which makes them expensive, the second reason is is that from most of their models only a limited number are made, ferrari keeps ferraris rare (inflates the price), added to that is an impressive marketing scheme. Same for rolex.

But if ferraris, or rolexes(?) could be found it the woods, and had the price they have, they would be gone if not protected. Ferraris and rolexes are not a natural resource, but manufactured items, carefully marketed to gain maximum profits.

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I did read about the 3 poachers who were shot by the BDF at the Namibian border - Yes, they were caught with ivory according to that report. I did not read anything about Rhino horn - that area of the BDF camp at the "Wounded Buffalo" border post does not have any Rhino to begin with!

 

True and worrying that they are killing suspected poachers even when there are no rhinos. Another observation is that there are ver few rhino in Botswana anyway.

 

Before 1974 rhino were extinct in Botswana - between 1974 and 1981 71 rhino were donated to Botswana from SA. in 1993 - they captured 7 rhino and moved them to the sanctuary.

 

I understand that some more were donated from SA since.

 

@@madaboutcheetah I have had a number of reports - here is another one... https://www.facebook.com/369311546412685/photos/a.375071869169986.103244.369311546412685/928639040479930/?type=1&fref=nf

 

 

 

A Zambian syndicate of poachers was killed on the spot after being caught poaching rhinos at Lenyanti.

 

Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, told YaronaFM news in an exclusive interview that there was no option but to shoot and kill the poachers because they were armed.

 

Khama further said there was a growing trend of Zambians and Namibians crossing into Botswana to poach wildlife, especially rhinos.

 

Alhough he did not divulge the exact number of rhinos killed, Khama said a varying number of rhinos are killed from time to time and that as much as seven are killed monthly.

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Hahaha - that's pretty hilarious! Zambians in the linyanti poaching rhino

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@@egilio perhaps you could tell me the estimated demand for a Ferrari - I am sure you will say that everyone wants one, but few can afford one - some have to settle for copies, but that doesnt affect the number of Ferraris sold. I am also sure everyone will buy a Rolex if they were affordable - but they only sell 2000 rolexe watches a year.

 

They sell 2000 Rolexes in Thailand a month @@Bugs the Chinese sell another 100,000!!

 

I will comment sensibly on this very topic soon. But I am really disappointed to hear the anti-trade presentations you refer to were based only on moral grounds. I hope that is a reflection of what you define as moral grounds, and not that organizations are arguing with one hand tied behind their backs by sensitive donors. I am pretty sure nobody who has spent parts of their lives trying to protect rhinos should be dismissing this proposal out of hand. At the same time if this step is taken only to save the rhino, without considering the bigger picture, surely it has significant implications, and I would have hoped that at least some of the anti-trade people would be arguing on those grounds from an informed perspective.

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@@Bugs and @egilio:

 

If I may, I'd like to address more questions to you both.

 

1) The "Eustace" model is SA centric. It would seem that all income from legal trade would go to the Central Selling Agency and subsequently be distributed to all contributing horn producers within the country in a ratio that reflected their quantitative levels of contribution. Have I understood this correctly?

 

2) If the answer to 1) is affirmative, why should other nations not attempt to block a Cites attempt to legalise trade? I am sure that several may take the view (whether you agree or not) that legalisation might well escalate the risks of the poaching that they currently suffer. A possible escalation of risk with no compensating income with which to address it is hardly likely to be a vote winner.

 

3) Would you agree that the CSA's stated method of income distribution is thoroughly inequitable? A rhino can apparently generate and income of £27000/annum. If I were to decide to farm rhinos in a manner similar to that used to farm cattle, I doubt it would cost me as much as £3000/animal pa (plus, perhaps a further £2000/animal pa to protect my assets). If the residual £22000 were to be returned to me, I would certainly be taxed, but the tax would go to a central government pot and not be hypothecated for conservation and I would still retain sufficient to become very wealthy (assuming I had plenty of stock). I have absolutely no objection to becoming wealthy, but the object of the exercise is apparently to conserve rhino in natural or semi-natural habitats rather that to enrich rhino farmers.

 

4) Would it not be more equitable if rhino farming were to be used primarily to generate income which could be distributed by the CSA to managers of all areas of Africa where rhinos exist in the wild? Clearly, sufficient would have to go to farmers to provide generous, but not excessive returns. However, this would still leave roughly £15000/animal/year for the conservation of wild rhinos - a total, perhaps, of £75 million.

 

Am I being totally naive? Have I misunderstood the "Eustace " model? Are my financial calculations askew?

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@@douglaswise There are a number of alternative models apart from the Eustace one. The gist is still the same, whether by CSO or auction of 500kg per month. The main purpose is to have complete control and in some way distribute the funds proportionally between rhino owners and the state. Other fail safes - like ensuring transparency and DNA catalogues of the horn through the market as well as setting up trading partners can be fine tuned. For example - I am feel that the state should not be a trading partner, and I suggest that the fiercest anti-trade NGO (who seem to have so much money) volunteer to ensure that things are run by the book. The trading partners are essential to the whole system and it is essential that they are under heavy scrutiny to ensure that they keep away from laundering. The benefit of having such trading partners, is that they will quickly report illegal goods as it interferes with their purpose and - well its illegal.

 

Essentially there are 6 african countries that have rhino. All of them have inherited their white rhino from South Africa. The biggest are SA, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland Kenya and Botswana. The first four are likely to support a trade proposal. CITES is dysfunctional, The EU usually vote as one, and there are another group that also vote as one. USA and China have one vote, as does SA. Even little Lesotho have one vote.

 

If SA are going to propose an option to lift the ban, and if they don't succeed they will need a plan "B". 1. They can exclude themselves from CITES on the rhino horn and allow for free trade on rhino horn locally. 2. They can walk out of CITES, which will be quite interesting as the COP is being held in SA.

 

I don't believe any nation has the right to block SA's trade proposal.

 

To answer no3.. take a look at this presentation.. https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/docs/rhinobreedingproject_jfhume.pdf

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Maybe discussion directly relating to the trade question could continue in this topic? (So to keep it all together?)

 

Thanks, Matt

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I've linked to this topic on my FB page as it is one that a lot of people are keen to further understand.

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@@Bugs and @egilio:

 

If I may, I'd like to address more questions to you both.

 

1) The "Eustace" model is SA centric. It would seem that all income from legal trade would go to the Central Selling Agency and subsequently be distributed to all contributing horn producers within the country in a ratio that reflected their quantitative levels of contribution. Have I understood this correctly?

 

2) If the answer to 1) is affirmative, why should other nations not attempt to block a Cites attempt to legalise trade? I am sure that several may take the view (whether you agree or not) that legalisation might well escalate the risks of the poaching that they currently suffer. A possible escalation of risk with no compensating income with which to address it is hardly likely to be a vote winner.

 

3) Would you agree that the CSA's stated method of income distribution is thoroughly inequitable? A rhino can apparently generate and income of £27000/annum. If I were to decide to farm rhinos in a manner similar to that used to farm cattle, I doubt it would cost me as much as £3000/animal pa (plus, perhaps a further £2000/animal pa to protect my assets). If the residual £22000 were to be returned to me, I would certainly be taxed, but the tax would go to a central government pot and not be hypothecated for conservation and I would still retain sufficient to become very wealthy (assuming I had plenty of stock). I have absolutely no objection to becoming wealthy, but the object of the exercise is apparently to conserve rhino in natural or semi-natural habitats rather that to enrich rhino farmers.

 

4) Would it not be more equitable if rhino farming were to be used primarily to generate income which could be distributed by the CSA to managers of all areas of Africa where rhinos exist in the wild? Clearly, sufficient would have to go to farmers to provide generous, but not excessive returns. However, this would still leave roughly £15000/animal/year for the conservation of wild rhinos - a total, perhaps, of £75 million.

 

Am I being totally naive? Have I misunderstood the "Eustace " model? Are my financial calculations askew?

 

Very cogently stated, @@douglaswise - you have said in this 1 post what I have been struggling to express in my many inarticulate posts. @@Bugs, if the purpose of this exercise is to somehow save rhino from extinction by buying them time, then ALL rhino everywhere need to be provided with the same or similar levels of protection as the rhinos that are farmed in SA. If all the proceeds from the sale of horn are used simply to enrich the SA farmers while rhinos in other range states continue to get poached as they no longer have any CITES protection nor any additional physical protection, then the motives of the rhino farmers become suspect. I know you have told me several times that these people keep rhino for the love of the species, but I think human nature is such that money wins every moral struggle every time. I doubt very much that rhino farmers will give up such a lucrative cash crop and return their rhinos to natural or semi-natural habitats - a few may, but most will not. So unless they are willing to commit to spreading the wealth to protect the rhino in all range states, the large majority of anti-traders will continue to believe that this is only an exercise to make money.

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Posted (edited)

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The Conservation Imperative has recently returned from Swaziland. This photo is of some of some of the most qualified wildlife and conservation veterans and practitioners around.

 

Michael Eustace - Founder member of African Parks where they manage 5.9 million hectares of wildlife habitat. he is a highly respected professional economist. His passion and interest in the wildlife industry has been unselfish and committed.

Dave Cook - below him was the Deputy director of Natal Parks board and one of the few people alive today who took part in operation rhino. He has had a lifelong commitment to conservation and was a very close friend of the Late Dr Player.

Ted and Liz Reilly started Big Game Parks in Swaziland and have devoted their lives to preserving, protecting and conserving a number of protected areas in Swaziland. Dr Currie is a wildlife vet who works closely with Big Game Parks in Swaziland.

Dr Jeremy Anderson is a wildlife specialist with a deal knowledge on what is going on in Kruger park - he was also co-founder of WESSA and was also a product of the Natal Parks board.

Dr John Hanks on the top right has a lifelong history with WWF and experience on the inner workings of poaching networks. His knowledge and passion have few equals.

The lady on the right is Ted Reillys daughter Annie and the chap on the bottom right is yours truly.

 

What beats me is that the selfless input from great minds like this, is lost to the self-righteous NGO's who appeal to public opinion to run conservation issues.

Edited by Bugs
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Two things crossed my mind yesterday.

In the 80s there was legal ivory trade AND a huge poaching crisis. The legal trade was shut down, and the poaching receded. As soon as legal ivory trade was opened, the poaching started to increase exponentially. Around the same time the illegal rhino horn trade and poaching started to grow exponentially. It was argued here that one isn't related to another. But clearly there are some links, as is apparent by the recent seizure of 340 tusks AND 65 rhino horns in Mozambique (link: http://ens-newswire.com/2015/05/14/mozambique-police-execute-huge-ivory-rhino-horn-seizure/).

 

So both in the 80s, and in the 2000s there was a flowering illegal trade of ivory next to the legal ivory trade. I don't think the SMART trade model is robust enough to eliminate this illegal trade. SMART only targets rhino horn trade, but clearly, ivory trade and rhino horn trade are linked, and those involved are not going to give up half of their very valuable commodities very easily.

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Posted (edited)

@@egilio I have addressed the assumptions that the ivory trade led to the poaching epidemic. We all agree that the once off sale of ivory (once every 15 or so years) is a good example of how not to apply the legal trade in rhino horn. The auction consisted of two buyers - who colluded and bough at a very low price. They then re-sold the ivory at vastly inflated prices - where they made all the money. Michael Eustace, Michael tSas-Rolfes, Dr Brian Childs and many other economists are no fools, and have spend a substantial amount of time and effort on the subject. They have no financial interest in the trade model, and are simply dedicated to saving the rhino.

 

What you must remember is that the illegal trade in rhino horn does not need a legal trade to "wash" its horn through. It exists because it is illegal. The conditions for illegal trade are ideal right now - we need to make their conditions less ideal and life more difficult for them.

 

Smart trade is a way of reducing poaching - we can't promise that we will save 100 rhino or 500 rhino or 1000 rhino. What we feel is that it is not detrimental to the future of the rhino at all, and will reduce poaching. No-one is able to say that they will "eliminate" the illegal trade, what we are saying is that we will reduce it, money will go to the right place, and rhino will be worth more alive than dead. Statistics show clearly that the situation is beyond control. It is long overdue that we try something different. We cannot continue with "more of the same". We need to put faith in the experts appointed in the committee of inquiry to make the right decision and back that. We should not leave it to petitions and public opinion to determine the future of the rhino.

 

There is a slogan doing the rounds - "when the buying stops - the killing will too" As much as I wish that we could change the perception of people in a far away land - I am afraid reality is it won't happen in time. And there is no way the buying will stop - it first has to show signs that it will slow down, and we can't pin our hopes on this solution alone. The only time the buying will stop is when there are no rhino left.

Edited by Bugs
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Surely anything that will help reduce poaching should be seriously looked at.

At the moment rhinos are worth a lot more dead than alive - we need to urgently change that. To argue that making them worth more alive than dead reduces them to the status of a commodity is to miss the point. The point is to keep them alive.

 

The rhino population is declining faster than demand is declining. We cannot simply continue as we are and hope it will get better.

 

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To argue that making them worth more alive than dead reduces them to the status of a commodity is to miss the point. The point is to keep them alive.

 

@@Soukous Yes this does completely miss the point and you are right the point is to keep them alive, but all this illustrates is that people who oppose the trade because they object to the exploitation of animals are unhelpful to this debate. Rhino farming is never going to transform white rhinos into fully domesticated animals like cattle and sheep, the rhinos on farms will remain exactly the same as those in the wild in Kruger. Worrying about rhino farming is an irrelevance what matters is finding the best way to keep those wild rhinos alive in Kruger and in other countries.

 

The question for those who are pro-trade is does legalisation really make rhinos worth more alive than dead or only certain rhinos i.e. those in private ownership. How does the smart trade model that is being proposed make a free range wild black rhino in Serengeti worth more alive than dead?

 

Provide a convincing answer to this question and I might have to reconsider my view point.

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What if in five years time the only rhinos remaining are those in private ownership? (Again, maybe it's better for such discussion to be continued in this topic so as to allow @@Bugs to update us all about the Conservation Imperative...)

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