When all the Rhinos are gone…

Apr 24 2017

Have you ever seen a Dodo? This soon might be the question we ask regarding rhinoceros and the future of these horn-nosed herds to live and roam freely in Africa’s wilderness areas.

International travel advisors and organisers may not be aware that it is now legal to trade rhino horn in South Africa, feasibly putting a time date on the future of rhino populations on the continent and making luxury group Safari expeditions to witness this ancient species in its natural environment in Africa, high on the list of priorities when booking 21st century experiences for wealthy travel clients.

By weight, rhino horns cost as much as gold on the black market but its demand has also placed the species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s critically endangered list. While the full impact of what the unbanning of trade in South Africa will mean, what is clear is that we all want to see more rhinos in wilderness areas and that anti-poaching patrols don’t work.

The controversy
South Africa is home to around 20 000 rhinos, around 80% of the worldwide population, of which about a third is held by private breeders, according to The Guardian report of 6 April 2017.

For nearly two years, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has fought court battles against private rhino owners to uphold the 2009 moratorium on the domestic trade in horn and stop illicit dealing, following a jump in poaching.

Rhino breeders believe that a legal source of horn; namely horns sawn off anaesthetised live animals in open trade, could end poaching deaths while still meet the Asian demand for horn as a curative substance and male aphrodisiac and open up the travel market for further business seen in inbound Asian medical tourism.

While there is still a ban on international rhino horn trade, the new rule states that anyone with a permit may buy or sell rhino horn in South Africa and that foreigners are allowed to export a maximum of two horns for “personal purposes” – although it isn’t clear if this is two horns per person, per day or per trip.

“Most of the VIP and luxury travel leaders we deal with are sourcing travel experiences and destinations that gives them access to parts of world that carry an –   often urgent – time date stamp on them,” says Adventure Extraordinaire Peter Hayward of Hayward’s Grand Safari Company.  “Modern day tycoons and affluent entrepreneurs are turning away from the materialism of the past that saw them owning snake skin shoes and ermine fur coats; instead they are looking at experiences of a diminishing world where they have access to nature that remains rare and untrampled by man’s devastation.

“We act as the ‘matchmakers’ between those intact experiences and the client’s taste for luxury living while on a Grand African Safari where wildlife and the environment remains pristine, untouched and unharmed. You could be enjoying an 8-course silver service meal with a group of business associates or friends and family while camped 400 metres away from a rhino group but when we deconstruct camp we leave absolutely no trace behind.”

Race against poachers
At least 1 054 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa in 2016. According to the World Wildlife Fund South African law enforcement officials don’t have the systems or capacity to manage the now legal parallel domestic trade on top of current levels of illegal poaching and trafficking.

Said a spokesperson for the WWF: “We are very concerned by the court’s decision to lift the ban on domestic trade in rhino horn. While we respect the court’s decision, we note the grounds for lifting the moratorium relate to the procedures that were used to put it in place rather than to the substantive merits of the ban. Without proven control measures we cannot ensure the legal trade won’t allow laundering of so-called ‘blood horns’ from our wild rhino populations. We believe the risks are too high, especially at such a critical time for safeguarding the future of wild rhinos.”

With the document still to be dissected and challenged in court, rhino population numbers continue to decrease on a daily basis.

For those travellers wanting to capture a unique photographic experience of rhino populations – with horns intact – on the plains of Africa, Peter Hayward of Hayward’s Grand Safari Company offers over twenty years’ experience of luxury safari expeditions into Africa with a leisure, business, photographic and Sacred Safari focus. Call Peter on C: +27 83 600 4453o to discuss your bespoke Grand Safari itinerary.