City Press/News24

First ever legal auction of rhino horns takes place online

After a 40-year ban, the legal sale of rhino horns officially began today – as an online auction.

Conservation groups opposed the auction, despite a Constitutional Court ruling in April that legalised the domestic sale of rhino horns. International trade is still banned.

According to the department of environmental affairs, rhino poaching for the 2016 period reduced by 10.3% compared with 2015 – down from 1175 rhinos to 1054, with most incidents occurring in the Kruger National Park.

In 2014, rhino poaching was declared a national priority crime owing to the large amounts of rhinos that were being poached for their horns.

The department said 414 alleged poachers had been arrested in South Africa since 1 January 2016 – 177 in the Kruger National Park and 237 for the rest of the country.

Widely regarded as the world’s largest rhino farm owner, John Hume has accumulated nearly six tonnes of rhino horns from the estimated 1500 rhinos that he breeds on his farm.

Hume has been advocating for the legal sale of rhino horns, with a strong belief that the legalisation will lead to a decline in poaching.

Hume has sought to safeguard his rhinos by cutting off their horns in a “humane way”, without harming the rhinos.

Now Hume has led the way to the online auction, with the sale happening through Van’s Auctioneers.

Speaking to City Press this morning ahead of the auction, Johan van Eyk of Van’s said that there was an overwhelming response to the registration process, which bidders are meant to follow, but that he could not give an exact number of how many bidders had registered.

The site,, stipulated that a sale could not occur without the purchasing of a permit, which could only be issued by the department.

There was also a refundable registration fee of R100 000.

The site responded to a series of concerns about the online auction: “Whether we like it or not, the channel for illegal horn trade exists.

“Illegal trade is succeeding and has no competition to counter it at all.

“Forming a competition in the form of legal trade has the potential of correcting the perverse value of the horn, which is what is driving rhino poaching at the moment.”

Hume fought to have a permit issued to him by the department that would allow him to legally trade in rhino horns after the Constitutional Court ruled in April that permits could be issued, but under certain conditions.

The department issued the permit under the following conditions:

• The permit holder can only sell rhino horn to a person who has a permit issued in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act authorising him or her to buy rhino horn from Hume (a buyer’s permit);

• The permit does not authorise international trade in rhino horn; and

• The department must be granted access to the online auction to do the necessary compliance monitoring.

The David Sheperd Wildlife Foundation labelled the auction as “tragic” because the legal sale of rhino horns “sets a dangerous and precarious precedent for the future of endangered species by reverting back to the belief that wildlife has a value and should be utilised at all cost, ignoring our ethical and moral obligations to fight for a species on the brink of extinction”.

Chief director of communications for the department, Albi Modise, told City Press earlier that he was still trying to find out more information about the status of the online auction.

“The permits are issued by the department but I am unable to comment at this stage as to how many have been issued,” he said.




South Africa’s controversial rhino horn auction gets underway

Two rare black rhinos, one with its horn removed as an anti-poaching measure, graze at one of Hume's ranches in 2015.

<img alt=”Two rare black rhinos, one with its horn removed as an anti-poaching measure, graze at one of Hume's ranches in 2015. ” class=”media__image” src=”//”>

Johannesburg (CNN)South Africa’s first online auction of rhinoceros horn is underway, with more than 500 kilograms up for bid from Wednesday through Friday.

On Sunday, the High Court in Pretoria paved the way for the controversial auction, ordering the minister of environmental affairs to hand over a permit for the sale of 264 rhino horns to breeder John Hume.
Hume, who owns the world’s largest private collection of rhinos, has battled to overturn a ban on the sale of horn in South Africa for years.
John Hume, pictured at his Johannesburg ranch in 2015, has obtained a permit to sell 264 horns.

<img alt=”John Hume, pictured at his Johannesburg ranch in 2015, has obtained a permit to sell 264 horns.” class=”media__image” src=”//”>

The Private Rhino Owners Association estimates in the eight years the ban has been in place, owners have spent more than $100 million to protect their rhinos. Without the sale of horn, the association argues, the breeding of rhinos would become unsustainable.
But environmental groups say there is no conservation value in the auction, arguing that rhinos shouldn’t be seen as livestock.
“The focus of conservation should be on wild rhinos,” says Christina Pretorius of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “Rhinos can’t produce enough horn on a regular basis to stem the insatiable demand.”
A de-horned rhino slowly wakes up after his horn was trimmed at one of Hume's ranches in 2016.

<img alt=”A de-horned rhino slowly wakes up after his horn was trimmed at one of Hume's ranches in 2016. ” class=”media__image” src=”//”>

According to the World Wildlife Foundation the number of rhinos poached in South Africa has increased by 9,000% since 2007. Their horns can fetch up to $100,000 per kilo in illegal black markets in Asia, where it is mistakenly believed to have medicinal benefits. The horns are made of keratin, the same protein in human fingernails.
Last year, more than 1,000 South African rhinos were slaughtered for the fourth year in a row. There are now fewer than 20,000 rhinos left in the country, home to 80% of the world’s rhino population.
The ministry says it will heavily monitor the sale and all horns will be required to stay in South Africa in keeping with the 40-year international ban on the trade.
But the IFAW’s Pretorius says it will be nearly impossible to monitor the sale. “Frankly we don’t believe any system exists to put in place the checks and balances to prevent these horns from getting into the black market.”
The owners’ association says all potential buyers must first apply for permits and give a 100,000 rand deposit. There are no listed prices on the site, with the horns going to the highest bidder.