Mail and Guardian

Mpumalanga’s rhino-farming tycoon, John Hume, says the best financial investment he could make would be to keep stockpiling rhino horn because the price of this prestige commodity just keeps rising.

In battling the scourge of rhino poaching in South Africa, private reserves are having to increase their security measures, look to alternatives like dehorning, and where possible, work together.

He would be happy to sell off his other endangered species, which include disease-free buffalos and roan and sable antelope, even his 6500ha wildlife ranch called Mauricedale, near Malalane, worth more than R4-million.

“But my financial advisers tell me not to sell my rhino horn because its value is increasing more than any other investment,” he said.

With 764 rhinos at Mauricedale and another breeding farm in North West province, Hume is the biggest rhino farmer in the world. He has de-horned all his rhinos and shaves off about 1kg of regrowth every year.

Loath to disclose the size of his present stockpile, kept in safety vaults off his properties, by the end of 2010 it included more than 500kg of rhino horn with a retail value of an estimated R200-million.

That was when horn was worth an estimated R400 000/kg; today it could fetch at least R520 000/kg. In theory, anyway, because he has not been able to sell it since a moratorium was imposed on the local horn trade in 2009.

Protecting rhinos
Even though his stash keeps growing and the price keeps rising, Hume has joined other private owners to demand that the trade in the horns of white rhinos be reopened. “I personally don’t need the trade to be legalised,” he said, “but it is the only chance we’ve got to stop the slaughter of rhinos.”

Private ranchers own about 25% of the estimated 18 600 white rhinos in South Africa. They also own a large part of the almost 20 tonnes of horn stockpiled in the country, although no one knows exactly how much.  Read more…