Could legal rhino horn sales actually save the endangered species? The world’s biggest rhino breeder, John Hume, seems to think so. He’s offering rhino horn in an online auction slated to go live this week. Hume owns over 1,500 rhinos on a ranch in South Africa, where horns are harvested from rhinos who Hume works to protect from poachers.
Hume’s Klerksdorp ranch is home to thousands of rhinos, and his auction website says he spends $170,000 a month just to protect them. He says he practices what’s called sustainable utilization, where resources are harvested from living animals, as opposed to many poachers’ practice of killing them for their horns. Hume has his rhinos’ horns trimmed and then allows them to grow back, and has stockpiled over six tons. He plans to sell around 1,100 pounds in the auction. The website states, “We firmly believe that legal rhino horn trading is the best way to save the rhino.”
On the black market, rhino horns can be sold for up to $95,000 per kilogram. According to Quartz Africa, the horns typically end up in China or Vietnam to be used for decoration or medicine – even though they haven’t been proven to possess medicinal benefits.
A ban on international rhino horn trading is still in place. But in April, South Africa lifted the ban on domestic sales. Both seller and buyer must have a permit, and horns sold are supposed to stay in the country. Critics say the horns will probably just end up trafficked into Asia. Hume’s rhino horn auction site includes versions in Chinese and Vietnamese. But Hume and other campaigners have said legally harvested horn from living rhinos could help meet the demand from Asia and slow poaching.