I would like to congratulate Michael Eustace (Legal horn trade could save our rhino - and Africa's parks, January 20). His article has shed a lot of light on the matter.
I have a few questions, which I am certain others would also like to have answers to.
- How will legalising horn trade ensure that the growth in demand for horn will forever remain lower than the rate at which rhinos can produce horn? I don't see this happening.
The potential market for horn is not going to shrink - in fact, it is growing and will be growing for the foreseeable future and I suspect it will grow exponentially. More people will be able to afford it going forward due to the economic progress the Chinese people are making.
- How will legalising horn trade stop illegal poaching? Illegal gun trade is still occurring every day. Do you think that the end user is really concerned with the path the horn has taken to him or her?
I'm certain only price and availability dictate their buying choice and given the growth in demand, poaching will continue to grow.
- Will the market value of rhino horn drop due to an increase in supply, thereby making the reward too little for the smugglers to risk their lives? If so, how much will the price have to drop in order to make the risk versus reward for a workless, starving Mozambican such that they will prefer to keep starving?
In each step from source to consumer, there seems to be at least 100% profit taken, leaving considerable room for the price to drop, should market forces dictate this.
The article states that one night's success can generate six year's wages for a poacher. I'm willing to wager that the average starving person would still poach even if the reward is one sixth of the current reward. What would happen to the demand levels if the price were to drop? Will the 22000-odd rhinos still be enough to supply to the 1,3-billion Chinese?
- Do calculations based on current rates or stable rates of change paint a realistic picture? The wealth profile of any nation grows exponentially as you go down the curve. This means that for each dollar, horn becomes more affordable - demand will not grow linearly, but exponentially.
The bottom line is, irrespective of the nature of the supply chain (legal or illegal, controlled or uncontrolled) the demand is growing exponentially and will soon outstrip the 6% linear growth in rhino horn supply if we fail to stem the demand. This problem will not be solved at the supply side.
How realistic is the following: launch a campaign to boycott all tourism to China. Will sufficient pressure be generated to motivate them to enforce their own laws and educate their people on rhino horn? Address the problem at the root.