A South African rhino breeder has announced that he will auction off some of his vast stockpile of horns in the world’s first global online “legal rhino horn auction”. According to John Hume, the money raised will be put back into their protection. Set to take place in August, Mr Hume initially plans on selling off 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of rhino horn from a collection thought to be around 5.4 tonnes (6 tons).
Despite the international sale of rhino horn being illegal, Hume plans to exploit the loophole in South African law that now legally allows the sale of horn domestically, even to international buyers. With the value of horn on the black market thought to be somewhere in the region of $60,000 dollars per kilo, he could be set to make up to $30 million from the sale, although no one knows quite how much legally sold horn will go for in reality.
The auction comes after last year’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in which South Africa legalized the domestic sale of horn, despite much opposition from conservationists. Instead, it listened to the legal rhino horn lobby, which is mainly composed of those who are breeding the animals on ranches.
The breeders argue that the best way to neutralize the increasingly insatiable demand for rhino horn is to flood the market. Sanction legal sales of the product to cause the price to tumble, and thus reduce the incentive to illegally slaughter the animals in the wild, and everyone is a winner. The market gets its product, the conservationists make some much-needed money, and, most importantly, the rhinos survive.
It also just so happens that these breeders are sitting on stockpiles of rhino horn worth hundreds of millions of dollars.