As many of you know, I have long asked the people who believe in legalising the international trade in rhino horn to produce their business case and user analysis. The reason I have asked these questions is that since I started interviewing the primary users of rhino horn, driving the current rhino killing spree, it became apparent straight away that they don’t see horn from a farmed rhino as a substitute product.
I wrote about this in: https://natureneedsmore.org/farmed-rhino-horn-not-seen-as-substitute-product/ As I say in the blog: When I was in South Africa earlier this year (Feb 2015) all my meetings clearly showed that very few people understood the nature of the demand or the users of genuine rhino horn. This is obviously very concerning since the South African government appears to be actively pursuing a trade legalisation agenda and they are creating risk-benefit models for pro/anti trade decisions based on incomplete information.
Yes, I heard that southern white rhinos are easy to farm “They are just like cows” one person said, “easy to manage, like dogs” said another. Significantly, not enough people are asking the right questions: “Whilst we know that horns can be harvested for sale, are these the rhino horns that the wealthy users, driving the poaching of wild rhinos, will want to buy? Are farmed horns a substitute product for horns from wild rhinos to the primary user groups?” BTB’s research has always indicated a farmed product is not seen as a substitute product by the wealthy Vietnamese elite who can afford to buy genuine, wild rhino horn. They are interested in the wild ‘product’ and so while the demand remains the poaching will continue.
When this blog was posted on some of the pro-trade social media groups the pro-trade response was as expected, ‘lobbying 101 techniques’ of deflection and counter-attack, but not answering very basic business case questions: https://natureneedsmore.org/pro-trade-response-to-blog/ My statement at the end of the blog “Obviously the lack of any useful response means that there is neither the willingness nor the ability on the pro-trade side to engage with the real aspects of the debate. Similarly, if the response is silence this is also be very telling!” may have triggered an email I received from some in the pro-trade community, pointing me to two pieces of information “I would like to recommend the following links”. http://za.zinio.com/reader.jsp?issue=416351493&o=ext “And please watch this video”: https://vimeo.com/135540882 and asking me “We are striving to make a rhino worth more alive than dead. Will you join us in this cause?”
I have commented on the vimeo video in a previous blog, pointing to the fact that, in the one hour it runs, the only time there is a suggestion about the specifics of the demand, one of their go-to economists, Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes states ‘What they [rhino horns] are used for is hardly relevant. The fact is that people are willing to pay.’
With this blog, I will comment on one of the articles published in the special ‘Rhino Horn Trade’ edition of Wildlife Ranching, a publication for the wildlife ranching industry of South Africa. The article is by Michael Eustace. For those who can’t access the link I show each page below before I comment.