South Africa, and Her Citizens, Will Benefit Tremendously From Legal Trade in Horns
Trade would save this country from potential financial ruin, provide hundreds of billions of Rands to help the neediest of South Africans, strengthen both our role in SADC and our relationship with China, and cement our country’s reputation as the world leader in conservation.
Our nation stands to gain as much as a trillion Rands of foreign-earned income over the next five years, if legal trade commences on a commercially appropriate scale. The government would get roughly 70% of that, due to three factors: state ownership of 5,000 rhino, state ownership of large horn stockpiles, and taxation of revenues earned on privately-owned horn and rhino.
Dr. Azar Jammine – Director and Chief Economist at Econometrix, and one of our country’s preeminent economists – analysed the opportunity and, in July 2019, published a report attached hereto as an addundum. Rather than attempt to summarise Dr. Jammine’s findings in our own words, the key points are presented below. They describe an opportunity of immense scale for South Africa, coupled with an explanation for how regulated legal trade in horn would render the poaching market unsustainable.
Dr. Jammine’s Report, excerpts from:
A freeing up of stockpiles could swamp the market for rhino horns going into Asia and ruin the business of poaching.... A portion of the funds generated from selling rhino horn can be used to improve security of the animals and the ability to act against poachers. Sophisticated technology can render rhino farms impregnable, but comes at a substantial cost. The attractions of poaching in any case would be diminished by the greater availability of product.
... In total, one could add massive value equivalent to more than R1 trillion in the South African economy, with huge benefits for the fiscus. An amount of this order of magnitude is equal to approximately 20% of GDP.
...The scale of the revenues that might be generated even with a vastly reduced yield assumed in the model, would still amount to an enormous boost to the economy and the fiscus.
... This could help boost the country's credit ratings, enabling interest rates to decline to lower levels than might otherwise have been the case, paving the way for the government to spend more on social development rather than on servicing its enormous debt.
... The other indirect benefit is that it would save the species and kill off attempts at poaching because that entire industry would not be worth pursuing.
... From an industrial point of view, the notion of beneficiation in South Africa as a vehicle for development would be enhanced and many job opportunities provided directly through the rhino carving industry. The program could also result in a huge increase in tourism not only to take advantage of the abundant product which would become visible in the country, but also because of the increase in the number of rhinos in national parks. The international goodwill created by the country in the interests of environmental protection should also not be underestimated and could come to be used as an example to be followed by other countries. From a foreign exchange point of view, the magnitude of the boost to exports, especially to Asia, would be dramatic for the balance of trade and current account. Indirectly this would reduce the country's dependence upon foreign portfolio inflows to generate the foreign exchange needed to import goods and services in the absence of the ability to produce sufficient goods internally. The volatility of the Rand's exchange rate would arguably be reduced.
Beyond this massive benefit to South Africa, and the opportunity it creates to uplift millions of our impoverished citizens, demonstrating leadership in this arena would earn our country the gratitude of the other SADC nations whose interest in trade is a matter of public record but who may be uncomfortable taking these steps on their own. It would strengthen our relationship with China, perhaps the most important trading partner Africa has, while also tilting the balance of power between SADC and China towards the Africans.
But perhaps most importantly, trade as contemplated herein would save the rhino from extinction, and in so doing, would provide the world with a 21st century model for conservation – one that harnesses the interests of private citizens and governments alike to protect the animals, their habitat, and the entire ecosystems that get a free ride on the effort to save the rhino.
The Mission Statement for our reserve is, “To Breed, Feed, and Protect Rhino. Sustainably.” In practice, that means we protect the land from incursion, check that the vegetation growing upon it is native to our area of South Africa, and watch over the rhino to ensure that they thrive. Our reserve, despite being only 3,000 hectares in size, and focused on rhino, is also home to herds of impala, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, giraffe, waterbuck, and more. It is home to 14 leopards, a handful of brown hyena, and more pangolin than we have been able to count. We take no special interest in any of these species. But our provision of a safe haven for the rhino means this ‘Noah’s Ark’ of wildlife also has a safe home, and that is all it takes for the South African biodiversity miracle to succeed.
Our work to preserve rhino has taken 3,000 hectares that used to support cattle, and has returned it to a wild state. By harnessing the interests of private citizens for the conservation benefit of the nation, through commercial incentives, South Africa and Namibia have achieved a conservation miracle. They have convinced private individuals to dedicate massive tracts of land to the wild, and to reintroduce and protect species that would otherwise be struggling to find habitat and to survive. In so doing, these two countries have returned their national biodiversity to a level not seen in centuries.
No other countries, anywhere in the world, have achieved anything like it. It is time we proudly stepped forward, shared this model with the world, and accepted our role as global conservation leaders.