Of the five existing rhino species, two are found on the African continent, notably in South Africa, which is home to nearly 80% of the world’s largest land mammals after elephants.
Classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the black rhino is numbered at just over 5,000, while the white rhino – “near threatened”, according to the IUCN – population is just over 20,000.
The rhino’s horns are used throughout Asia in traditional medicine, notably in a quest for aphrodisiac effects, even as South Africa continues to fight poaching, which last year led to the deaths of nearly 450 rhinos.
The price per kg of horn is close to that of gold, at around $60,000. The export of this keratin appendage is illegal, but drastic anti-poaching measures have not succeeded in eradicating the practice.
$150m over 30 years
With 2,000 rhinos on 8,000 hectares of land less than 200km southwest of Johannesburg, South African millionaire John Hume is the world’s largest owner of this mammal.
This message reflects the economic dilemma of being a rhino custodian. It is a stark reminder that economic models that sustain wildlife are difficult to engineer under current circumstances. (1/2)https://t.co/e3aFwV8jhrApril 21, 2023
The breeder, who made his fortune in tourism, estimates that he has spent $150m over 30 years to protect the species, notably by financing kilometres of fences, dozens of cameras, a control room, heat detectors, and the salaries of 100 or so people who work on the site, in particular, armed rangers.
At 81 years old and short on funds, the retiree wants to pass on the torch. On 26 April, he put up his farm for sale in a single lot – including a stockpile of 10 tonnes of horns – in an online auction that will start at $10m.
Hume hopes that a billionaire would rather save rhinos from extinction than buy a super yacht
Hume hopes that “a billionaire would rather save rhinos from extinction than buy a super yacht,” and is satisfied that there are “many more rhinos on earth” than when he started his project.
For rhinos that cannot be monitored 24 hours a day, the ultimate strategy would be to have the coveted horns preventively cut off by veterinarians. If sold on a legal market, the horns could even fund the conservation of the species. However, the tactic is controversial with some NGOs who are keen to save both the life and integrity of the rhino.
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