Hooo-Hooo Volume 10, Nr 3 - Page 20

WildLife Group of the SAVA whole. Dehorning is an option that could really get local communities involved in conservation. Unfortunately, for poor people, the “if it pays it stays” principle is a reality. Horn trade can create jobs, alleviate poverty, and in the end farm workers, rangers and the local communities will protect the rhino out of their own will. This can lead to the protection of suitable habitat, habitat that is so vital for many other species, some equally and even more threatened, but not considered ‘important’. Dehorning is easily achieved in smaller populations like small game reserves and private game ranches. With a combined effort dehorning is quite achievable even in larger national and provincial parks. If we adopt the trade regulations that a third of the money generated from sale goes to the farmer or reserve, a third to the local communities and a third to government then this would be a benefit to everyone. The private game farmer can use that money to buy more land, buy more rhino and fund rhino security. Conservation areas can plough their money straight back into rhino protection by employing more rangers, paying them better salaries etc. The farm workers, rangers and local communities that now benefit from rhino (wildlife) will now help conserve the rhino, their habitat and other wildlife on these game farms and protected areas. Government can use the muchneeded income to build better roads, schools and hospitals. If we are to conserve rhino and wildlife in general we have to give ownership to local communities. It is important not to just give these communities the money generated from the sale of the horn, but they must be involved first hand. They must not own a third of the rhino in an area, but rather a third of each rhino. Thus if a single rhino is poached in the area, they also loose. In the end these communities will be driving the protection of these rhino. 20 On smaller game farms and reserves the decision could be made to dehorn all the rhino every few years or stagger the dehorning of individual rhino over time. Within bigger conservation areas like national and provincial parks only a percentage of rhino need to be dehorned every year in order to generate income that would far exceed any form of tourism, government or donor funding, this without having the entire rhino population dehorned and effecting the tourism. This will however only be achievable after a few years when the poaching is under control. With more money going to conservation this is definitely possible, even by having a large percentage of horned animals. We must not fool ourselves into thinking the rhino horn supply, even if we sell all stock piles and dehorn every single rhino in Africa, will ever be enough to flood the market, fill the demand and bring down the value of rhino horn. If each Chinese person only consumes 0.1 gram of horn each year, we would still need an astronomical 130 tonnes of horn each year to satisfy their demand. But what legal trade can do is to increase the risk for the poacher. Why risk your life when there is a much easier way of acquiring horn? Poachers will convert to anti-poachers/rangers, and there is no better ranger than a converted poacher. There are few things as magnificent as a rhino with a beautiful set of horn. But there are few things as sad as a dead rhino, with its horns hacked of, and the horns in the hands of the poachers and syndicates. We need to change this before it is too late. *I took the liberty of naming this ‘refined’ method after colleagues and conservationists Drs Pete Morkel and Mike Kock. These two men have helped save a fair number of rhino through dehorning. Morkel and his team were the first to dehorn rhino in Namibia. They used a handsaw to remove the horns back in those days… Kock and his Zimbabwean team learnt from Morkel, but after taking several hours to dehorn a big bull, they decided on a more drastic approach. Kock was the first to dehorn rhino with a chainsaw in order to shorten the immobilization period and improve the survivability of these rhino.)