Killing with kindness

More often than not, the people who have the best intentions in mind are the ones who screw it all up. We have seen this is politics, we have seen this in economics and we have seen this in warfare, now we have come to...

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391 11

More often than not, the people who have the best intentions in mind are the ones who screw it all up. We have seen this is politics, we have seen this in economics and we have seen this in warfare, now we have come to see it in our nature reserves.

The media has been reporting on the poaching of rhinos in South Africa for some time now. Who can blame them? Rhinos are not only an endangered species, but also one of the main tourist attractions to our nation. Their deaths mean fewer animals and therefore fewer tourists.

The culprits of this poaching range from locals to foreign recruits, but all of the rhino horns are heading to the same place: Asia. Almost all poachers are selling their horns to one place and that is Asia, mainly China. In China, the horns are used for traditional Chinese medicine, mainly as an aphrodisiac. This practice of hiring poachers to kill our rhinos is not only ignored by the Chinese government, it is encouraged. Obviously this is disgusting and any decent human being would not need a writer like me to tell you that. It is in fact another group related to this which I need to explain my frustration for.

In reaction to these rhino deaths, a group of activists did the best thing they could: blame the SA government. Under many other circumstances, this would be justified, as most of the time, it is the governments fault, but this time, we cannot blame the SA government. Obviously, the government benefits from rhinos, and obviously they are seeking to defend them, and they are doing as well as they can. It is not like they are the ones killing the rhinos, as the activists seem to think. If they are to lay blame on anyone, they should start boycotting the Asian markets, instead of damaging an already struggling economy like ours, therefore risking our ability to pay rangers to look after rhinos.

This stupidity isn’t the height of their naivety, however, but only a start. It is obvious that whoever runs and supports these activists did not even know the fundamental laws of economics as they sent in the demand for the SA government to burn their stockpile of confiscated rhino horns. To them, this will apparently save endangered rhinos. Now tell me, how does burning horns save rhinos? That’s right, it doesn’t. It does not frighten poachers, it does not even slightly irritate them, in fact, it is exactly what they want.

If these so-called ‘activists’ knew even the basic business principal of supply and demand, they would understand that by destroying these horns, they will not be deterring poachers, but encouraging them. They will be destroying the supply, therefore raising the demand. This will drive up the price of horns to such a height that poachers will probably become our #1 tourist; and as should be apparent, the more poachers, the less rhinos.

So how do we fix this poaching problem? The answer should be quite simple, but sadly, many will not even begin to comprehend it, or even tolerate the suggestion of it. Many have been shunned for saying it, but I have come to the conclusion that the only way to ethically save our rhinos is to say it and hopefully instate it.

This solution has been tried and tested through the ages and has made sure that hundreds of breeds of animals are kept from extinction. This simple solution is called farming. In a farm, animals are bred, guarded and above all else, killed in a fashion 100 times more ethical than the manner of the poachers. Farming has also proven to be so effective that the animal in which it is connected to not only breed at an exponential rate, but also make them almost useless in the illegal market.

You do not see machine gun armed poachers going after cows, do you? Cows are even somewhat more valuable than rhinos. What does a horn add value to? Decoration, fake Viagra, a knife handle… and that’s it. A cow on the other hand has milk (which can be used in cheese, beverages, etc.), beef, leather (clothing, furniture), hooves (jelly) and they can be kept as cool pets. Logically, a cow should be more valuable than a rhino. So why don’t people poach them? The answer is quite simple: there is no point. With farming, the product is mass produced and sold, creating a larger supply which can meet demand, lowering prices; and if prices lower, so does poaching.

The government needs to legalize rhino farming if it is to bring the rhino back from the brink of extinction. It is the only way to save these beloved creatures and save them from the vile claws of the poachers which do not know the meaning of sustainability. While these farms are being organized, however, the government needs to do something to stop rhino poachers in the meanwhile; and that is the very opposite of what the activists and poachers want. The government stockpile must be sold, the horns allowed to flood the market and make rhino horns close to worthless for a long while; long enough to allow the rhinos to start being farmed and bred.

The alternative is of course to burn the horns, but mark my words, so-called activists. If the stockpile is burnt, the rhinos WILL be wiped out, and it will be no fault of the government, poachers or anyone else but the activists. Stay on your current path, and you will be single-handedly murdering an entire species. Mark my words, you burn that stockpile, and you will become murderers.



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  1. Jasper Reply

    Okay, two points. One, a decrease in rhino’s will actually, drive up the rhino tourist industry, “this might be the last one you’ll ever see” kind of thing. Two, they are incredibly territorial creatures, breeding them will be an incredible problem. Three, the more you create of these horns the more the demand will go up, the horns are available to a select (rich) few. An increase in supply will allow the (mostly poor) others to buy it. The Supply might go up, but the cheaper price means that the demand might stay the same. Four, I’m not incredibly clear about this fact, but the gestation period of rhinos will not be enough to breed them successfully.

    1. Nicholas Woode-Smith Reply

      1) If all rhinos are killed, however, people will stop coming all together. Will we really risk the species by keeping them rare?
      2) People have been breeding them privately for decades, they are extremely prolific if guarded. Of course they are territorial, but so are bulls and roosters.
      3) Even if the demand goes up, people are not going to spend millions poaching something which is valued as pittance. Beef is a valued commodity, but people don’t poach them using Aks and helicopters. If the supply goes up, prices will go down and so will poaching. This is a solution against poaching, not a marketing ploy.
      4) Read #2.

      1. Edy Reply

        China has South Africa in its pocket. And SA will continue to cater to its every whim there is no political will whatsoever to declare a state of emergency on the slaughter of our rhinos.

  2. Jasper Reply

    A complete contradiction to my previous comment, but this guy is waiting:

    1. Nicholas Woode-Smith Reply

      That article alone should be enough to prove to anyone that rhino farming is humane and should be legalized and endorsed. Do you ban sheep shearing? No, then why ban de-horning if the rhino is fine afterwards?

  3. Charl Heydenrych Reply

    I agree 100% with your economic reasoning.

    You did however make 1 or two slight errors in your argument. When you say: “Logically, a cow should be more valuable than a rhino – no, just as one finds in the water/diamond paradox it is marginal value that is the key;

    and “So why don’t people poach them?” people do – it is called stock theft. But yes, with farming, the product is mass produced and sold, creating a larger supply which can meet demand, lowering prices; and if prices lower, so will poaching reduce.

    1. Nicholas Woode-Smith Reply

      Good points, and thank you for pointing them out. The first one was more a joke pointing out how value is not based on practicality, but should be in a logical sense. The second is totally true. Cattle are still stolen and poached, but due to mass breeding, they tend to be hunted to a lesser extent and are easily replaceable.

  4. Jonno Reply

    Why not just de-horn all surviving rhinos and sell the horns. Satisfy the current demand level at the current price but take killing the animals out the equation.

  5. Rian Geldenhuys Reply

    Nicholas Woode-Smith:
    Your typing effort here is not only incorrect, but in light of all information in the public domain, either deliberately misleading (making it criminally fraudulent) or grossly negligent.

    You type:

    “In China, the horns are used for traditional Chinese medicine, mainly as an aphrodisiac.”

    The truth:

    UTTERLY FALSE in both instances. The TCM practitioners have removed rhino horn from their Pharmacopoeia in 1993 already. It has also NEVER been used as an aphrodisiac in China.

    You type:
    “This practice of hiring poachers to kill our rhinos is not only ignored by the Chinese government, it is encouraged.”

    The truth:
    This is a grossly false and racist statement. The Chinese government has NEVER encouraged poaching.

    You type:

    “…these activists did not even know the fundamental laws of economics as they sent in the demand for the SA government to burn their stockpile of confiscated rhino horns.

    The truth:

    We do. You will also understand basic economics once you look up “Veblen Good” in any reasonable economics publication.

    You type:
    “Farming has also proven to be so affective…”

    The truth:
    Apart from the fect that you can’t even spall “effaktif”, the word “wildlife” has meaning to most of humanity.

    If the stockpile is burnt, it will send a message of TRUTH, unlike the criminally deliberate (or negligent) falsehood you have typed here.

    Should you ever type any more such falsehoods, on any forum anywhere, we shall lay a charge of fraud against you.


    Rian Geldenhuys

    Section 24 Rights Coalition

    1. Nicholas Woode-Smith Reply

      1) You are correct about it not being used as an aphrodisiac, and I will apologize for that oversight.

      2) If a government doesn’t stop something, it could very well be condoning it. And it is not racist, its anarchist. All governments are bad in one way or another, regardless of race.

      3) It seems you are not only ignorant of economics, but find it hard to comprehend simple English. The reason rhino horns are sought after is because they are a Veblen good. We want them to be worth nothing so poaching decreases due to lower prices and a large supply.

      4) I honestly think the killing of any animal is bad, but I would rather have minimized killing than genocide.

      Besides your blatant ignorance of politics and economics, I also feel you haven’t actually experienced the Internet at all. The Internet is a free for all, people can say whatever they want on it without fear of repercussion. Threatening legal action against anyone online is the equivalent of suffocating a rock. Please spend at least 3 hours on the Internet doing what you are doing now, and then get a life.

      Even if I had said this offline, I would still be safe. There is something in this nation (and world) called free speech. I can claim that 2+2=76 and you still have no right to accuse me of fraud. I never stole anything, I didn’t kill anyone and I haven’t threatened violence upon anyone. All I am is the average blogger, slightly amused that someone with the maturity rating of a toddler graced my website.

  6. Sean Alexander Reply

    A pioneering scheme which allows private landlords to own and breed wild rhinoceroses has succeeded in bringing one of Africa’s most majestic animals back from the brink of extinction, conservations will announce today.

    In 1960, an estimated 100,000 southern black rhinos roamed the plains of southern Africa. Poaching and the destruction of the animals’ natural habitat cut their number to 2,410 in 1995.

    The decline has been reversed: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will announce this morning that more than 4,000 southern black rhinos can be found in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, and Kenya, a landmark signifying stability.

    Numbers of southern whites have also increased, from 14,540 in 2005 to 17,480 at the end of last year.

    “Effective law enforcement has become much easier now that the animals are largely privately owned,” said Dr Richard Emslie, a scientific officer with responsibility for rhinos at the IUCN.

    “We have been able to bring local communities into the conservation programmes. There are increasingly strong economic incentives attached to looking after rhinos rather than simply poaching: from eco-tourism or selling them on for a profit. So many owners are keeping them secure. The private sector has been key to helping our work.”

    As a result of poaching for their horns, the news is dismal for Africa’s two northern species of rhino, however. Only four northern white rhinos remained when they were last seen in August 2006, all of them in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, down from 30 in three years. That quartet has not since been sighted, leaving scientists concerned that they have been killed. The northern black rhino, which last bred successfully in Cameroon two years ago, is now extinct.

    Several new rhino populations have been founded elsewhere in southern Africa. Hundreds of rhinos, both black and white, have been transferred to North Luangwa National Park in Zambia, for example, where they have bred successfully in the hundreds. The Kenyan Wildlife Service, which is responsible for managing Kenya’s national parks, has run a programme with similar success.

    Jean-Christophe Viè, the deputy head of the IUCN species programme, said these projects have restored conservationists’ faith in the herbivore’s future. “As long as you clearly identify the threat and combat it, conservation programmes are capable of being highly effective. From preservation of habitat to the development of rhino-centred tourism and clamping down on poaching, we know where the threats to rhinos come from. Encouraging private ownership has helped us counter those threats.”

    The only southern African country in which the rhino population has languished is Zimbabwe, where economic turmoil wrought by Robert Mugabe’s government has made law enforcement almost impossible. The threat from poaching remains: the World Wildlife Fund attributes two-thirds of rhino fatalities in Zimbabwe to hunting, though only an estimated 8 per cent of rhino horns are recovered.

    Across Africa as a whole, law enforcement agencies claim to be recovering an increasing proportion of the poached horns. In 2002-05, the last period for which there are reliable figures, an estimated 42 per cent of rhino horns were recovered by agencies.

    A pair of horns can sell for up to $50,000 (£25,500). Demand remains high from China, where they are used in medicines, and Yemen, where they are used to make dagger handles. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that the horns are an effective aphrodisiac. They are made of keratin, the protein that makes up human hair and fingernails.

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