Save the Rhino supports sustainable use. This means that we are not ethically opposed to the use or sale of animals in a sustainable way – as long as this does not negatively impact on the population as a whole or cause pain or suffering to the animal.
This means, in theory, that we are not ethically opposed to the horn trade, as horns can be removed without harming rhinos – though this is not to say that dehorning is simple. Our concerns, however, are based on whether the horn trade could be put into practice without threatening rhino populations. As such, Save the Rhino has not yet reached a conclusion on whether an international trade is workable or not long-term. We are currently considering the cases for and against.
However, we currently do not believe, based on the evidence available, that the required checks and balances are in place now, or are likely to be in the near future, for a legal horn trade to be regulated successfully and without leakage into a black market – potentially fuelling further demand.
The debate over whether or not to legalise the trade in rhino horn tends to polarise opinion. Let’s start with the two central tenets that people in all camps can agree on. Firstly, we all want to see more rhinos in more viable populations in the wild. Secondly, we all accept that there is no silver bullet that will solve the rhino poaching crisis: legal trade on its own will not work; anti-poaching patrols on their own will not work. So the question should really be: what combination of approaches should we adopt to ensure that rhino numbers and rhino population numbers continue to grow?
Legalising the trade may be one of these approaches and is being actively discussed or supported by South Africa and Swaziland. There are several different options for a legalised trade in rhino horn. Click on the headers below to read more about these scenarios.
1. One off sale of rhino horn stockpiles
2. Domestic trade in rhino horn
3. (Semi) permanent international CITES regulated sale
Photo credit Renaud Fulconis