Robin Hurt, Kenyan hunting safari operator in Tanzania and Namibia and now game rancher, with decades of wildlife experience, has commented on the Chinese decision to allow use of farmed rhino horn and tiger products in TCM. When he says CITES, that means the Parties (countries) that belong to CITES. His words:

This, after some careful consideration, is my personal take on the Chinese announcement that will be allowing legal trade of rhino horn in China .

I have mixed feelings at present about the Chinese announcement. If Cites would allow the legal and controlled harvesting of horn from rhino (a harmless process to the animal and possible for up to five times in a rhinos normal life time, as it quickly grows back) then the Chinese announcement would go hand in hand with helping to fund rhino conservation.

However if it is to be a stand alone decision for China without Cites harvesting approval for African rhino, then the current bloody slaughter carried out by illegal poachers in Africa will certainly escalate. Maybe the Chinese announcement will now hopefully force Cites to seriously reconsider their stand on harvesting horn from African rhino? We shall have to wait and see.

All I know is that everything except for harvesting has been tried and nothing has worked to stop rhino poaching. Rhino conservation is expensive. If rhino are to survive in the long term then they have to become a competitive form of land use directly benefitting those humans that steward them. Harvesting of horn is a simple and effective way of doing this.

I always ask “What is better, the harmless removal of horn five times in a rhinos life time OR being killed illegally for a one off horn removal”? To me the answer is obvious.

The other advantage of harvesting will be to make rhino conservation more interesting and financially worth while to a much wider range of audience including land owners and communities with wildlife user rights. Currently it is a financial burden that most rhino conservation projects struggle with – and relies hugely of private funding and on the good will of donors to help support that cost.

Robin Hurt