(This article was originally published in The Horn, spring 2012. Author: Richard Bonham, Chairman, Maasailand Preservation Trust)
Flipping open my wife’s grandfather’s book, Hunter by Hunter, I came upon the following passage, in which J.A. Hunter discusses his meals with his camp cook.
“Myself: What soup do we have tonight, Malumbe?
Malumbe: Rhino soup, bwana.
Myself: What meat?
Malumbe: Fillet of rhino, bwana.
Myself: What for tomorrow?
Malumbe: Rhino heart, bwana.
Whatever part I ate, I still had visions of the charging animal that had died in defence of his heritage and this hardly aided digestion.”
This conversation took place only 65 years ago and only 30 miles from where we are working with Kenya Wildlife Service on the Chyulu Hills Game scout and rhino programme, endeavouring to protect the few rhinos that J.A left behind. J.A, at that time, was responsible for clearing land for settlement, which involved shooting 1,000 rhino on what is now known as the great Makueni rhino hunt.
The Rhino Poaching Crisis – A Market Analysis, by Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes, is a must-read for anybody interested in rhino conversation. It demonstrates a staggering change in markets, from rhino being destroyed as vermin 60 years ago, to rhino horn having a market value of $6,000 a kilo only two decades ago, and finally to the current horn value of approx. $65,000 per kilo. The reasons for this huge hike are explained well in Michael’s paper.
For us on the ground, it spells out the huge challenge we are facing. We need to provide security for unfenced rhino in the Chyulu area, whose horn value equates to a few million dollars. Now, in a poor country, where people will risk a custodial sentence for stealing a mobile phone, the temptation to poach a rhino must be almost impossible to resist.
The rhino crisis we are facing has two fronts. One is ours – in the field desperately trying to play for time. The greater battle, to deflate the market value, takes place thousands of miles away, and will dictate if we will win or lose and if rhino will survive.
Our thanks to the Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust (£5,000); Chester Zoo (£4,796 for renovations to Simba Camp and £795 for infra-red camera traps; and the Dischma Charitable Trust (£500).