How to stop the illegal poaching that is killing off some horned animals? Make it legal!

In the March 25th edition of the Guardian, Edna Molewa reports that South Africa’s environmental affairs minister if backing a radical proposal to legalize the international trade in rhino horn as a means of shutting down the black market and saving the threatened species. Almost 700 rhinos were killed in South Africa last year.

The Guardian quotes her as saying, "Our rhinos are killed every day and the numbers are going up. The reality is that we have done all in our power and doing the same thing every day isn’t working. We do think that we need to address this issue of trade in a controlled manner so that we can at least begin to push down this pressure."

John Hume, South Africa’s biggest private rhino owner, says that the animals could be periodically dehorned safely and humanely.

Rhino horn sales have been banned for more than 30 years, but despite this, poaching has steadily increased, despite armed patrol and aerial surveillance. A rhino farmer in South Africa is even planning to use surveillance drones designed for the US military to combat poachers who are driving the animals towards extinction.

In the December 25th edition of the Guardian, David Smith quotes rhino protectionist Clive Vivier as saying, "The drones are economical to fly and will get us information at a very low cost. We need this technology to put us in a position to catch the guys. We need to do it before they kill rhino. The drone is, in my opinion, the only solution. It is highly sophisticated and can see things no other technology can."

At least 158 rhinos have already been slaughtered this year, of them in Kruger national park. At the current rate, the tipping point may arrive in 2016, when deaths will outnumber births.

The Guardian quotes Will Travers, of the Born Free Foundation, as saying, "So what are they saying by legalizing the rhino horn trade? Here is a product that every sensible scientist says has no significant impact and they are going to sell it at huge cost to a public that is ill-informed.

"I wouldn’t go to sleep at night if I thought I was selling something like that to a Vietnamese family (where rhino horn if believed to be a valuable medicine) who have scrimped and saved every cent to buy rhino horn for their dying grandmother, who then goes and dies."

But as Vivier is quoted as saying, "If we don’t wake up and do something, the world will lose the rhino."

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