China can help save rhinos, says John Hume

Back to homepage China can help save rhinos, says John Hume

John Hume, the founder of the world largest private rhino conservation project believes China can help save rhinos.

Hume is probably best known for challenging the South African Government’s moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn, an extended legal case that he eventually won in 2017. He also appeared in the 2017 documentary, Trophy, in which he shared his views on legalising the trade in rhino horn.  Here he argues that China’s decision to ease its ban on trade in rhino horn will go down in history as a landmark moment in global effort to save rhinos for future generations.

I, together with a highly dedicated team of over 90 people, run a White Rhinoceros Captive Breeding Operation (CBO) which houses the most diverse gene pool of white rhino on the planet. We currently protect and care for 1,622 rhinos and have successfully bred 1,085 in the past 9 years. At the moment we have over 300 pregnant rhino females and by March 2019 we will reach a goal of breeding 200 rhino calves annually. Our project has also achieved an exceptional level of security for rhinos wherein, through the past 36 months, we have lost only 2 rhinos to poaching, and we have recently celebrated 19 months of zero poaching.

Harvesting horn

Over the past 26 years I have personally funded this project with over US$120 million, and have now finally exhausted my life savings with little financial wherewithal to continue. It currently costs ZAR 5 million per month to protect and care for these 1,622 rhinos. We regularly and repeatedly harvest horn off our rhinos because the horn trimming program is one of our essential tools in preventing poaching. However, having no trading partners in rhino horn for all these years and having been deprived of an income from my project because of the total prohibition on trade in rhino horn, I now facing a great difficulty to continue protecting these rhinos effectively. Not allowed to trade in legally produced rhino horn that has four government permits per each horn together with a DNA registration, I ended with 6.5 tons of sustainably harvested product stored in vaults across South Africa, while continuing struggling with finding much needed finances to keep rhinos safe from poaching.

‘Revolutionary step’

We are delighted by and would like to congratulate the Chinese State Council on the announcement of the controlling the trade and use of rhinoceros and their related products in China from farmed animals. This is a revolutionary step and a great example of courage against the ineffective wildlife world’s politics. As the forefront line against rhino poaching in South Africa we also strongly support South Africa’s and China’s prohibition on the illegal trade in rhino horn. We are convinced that China’s decision will go down in history as a landmark moment in global effort to save rhinos for future generations. Regulated trade in legal rhino horn will enable private rhino conservationists with much needed finances derived from trade that would be used for better protection and breeding of rhinos. We believe that it’s vitally important to finally recognize the main cause for rhino poaching crisis that threatens species with extinction, which is total prohibition.


For example, while the blame is on poachers and the demand on rhino horn, it’s hardly acknowledged that it is the prohibition on legal supply that provides a monopoly for organized crime in wildlife trafficking that order the poaching of animals. What’s more, the only beneficiaries from the total prohibition are illegal traders and many powerful NGOs who oppose controlled trade in wildlife products because their businesses depend and thrive on money collected from outcomes of the wildlife suffering done by the organized crime. The power of such NGOs is in their ability of having a strong influence to CITES policies, such as keeping in place a failed global prohibition on trade in rhino horn, which in reality secures the monopoly for illegal traders and insures constant donations to these NGOs. We are of the opinion that such NGOs should be identified as the main threat to the survival of any endangered species that are facing poaching crisis and finally be recognized as the advocates for the organized crime in wildlife trafficking.

Range states

Because of total prohibition, wild rhinos and their future in most rhino range states became fully dependent on Western NGOs donations and grants, who often dictate the national wildlife policies that leads of suppression of local people who lost their birth right to live in harmony with nature and legally benefit from state’s natural resources. Donations isn’t a sustainable and reliable source of an income, which greatly limits opportunities of involving local communities in protecting their natural heritage that could contribute to livelihood of people and animals.

A true conservation should fully rely on a scientifically approved sustainable use practices in wildlife management which would uplift local communities from poverty and insure harmony between people and nature.


That’s the reason why we strongly believe that total prohibition, and not the demand, is the main cause for a wildlife poaching crisis. It only effective in outlawing a regulated trade, which is non-detrimental to the survival of species, leaving the monopoly of illegal traders thriving and immune to the prohibition. Regulated supply of legal rhino horn from farmed rhinos will provide a competition to the established monopoly and will significantly reduce the poaching of rhinos in the wild. It would also serve to divert desperately needed rhino revenues away from criminals and into the hands of legitimate Rhino Custodians and Governments to ensure the strengthening of protection measures, policing, and the required governance in wildlife conservation.