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.