Demand reduction needs to be driven by enforcing the laws promulgated in horn-consuming countries. The arguments vented by commentators to promote the concept of a central selling organisation (CSO) as the anchor component of the legalisation of the trade in rhino horn debate are seriously flawed. Written by James Campbell for Business Day
The success of a CSO, as once practised by de Beers for the sale of diamonds, had as a fundamental tenet, the focus on price stability throughout all aspects of the industry: the producer, the trader, the polisher and the consumer.
This was achieved via a supply-control mechanism at the De Beers wholesale level coupled with the ability of its customers to buy and move diamonds to the international market. In poor market conditions, such as high interest rates, de Beers put into stock millions of US dollars worth of diamonds to avoid a slump in prices and for these stones to be released to the market under better economic conditions.
Another key component of such a strategy was the massive annual investment in marketing campaigns to promote diamonds to the world consumer using its well know marketing slogan, “A diamond is forever”.
There is no similarity between the diamond CSO and a CSO as a driver in the legalising of rhino horn trade. A CSO focused on maintaining the price for horn at a level greater than the transport costs of moving illegal horn from the killing fields of SA to the markets of China and Vietnam, argued by pro-trade parties as needed to provide funding for rhino security in the wild, will continue to provide the financial motivation for the syndicates to increase poaching.
It has also to be remembered that the CSO in the diamond industry did not arrest the trade in stolen diamonds, illegally mined diamonds or blood diamonds. The Kimberley Process was developed much later as an attempt to curtail aspects of these activities..
Legalisation of horn will provide low-cost marketing credibility to the much published medicinal myths of rhino horn in these consuming countries with a resultant increase in demand.
There is a very low percentage, estimated by some commentators at 0.15% of the Chinese and Vietnamese population, who are users of this form of keratin. Even an increase in demand to supply 1% of the population triggered by the legalisation of trade will set the platform for an increase in poaching based on the most easily understood logic — the syndicates have structures now to obtain the product basically for free or close to it. Why would they abandon such structures to buy legalised horn at five to 10 times the cost of procuring poached horn?
While there is some rhino horn in stock to meet an increase in demand in the immediate short term, it is totally unsustainable beyond the very short term and will only benefit a few people like me.
Demand reduction needs to be driven by enforcing the laws promulgated in horn-consuming countries. Host countries need to be supported by international government and non-government agencies to frustrate the poaching scourge throughout the supply chain. There must be full implementation of harsh legislation similar to illegal diamond buying legislation.
Otherwise, Africa will have to reflect in a few years’ time on the aftermath of the colonisation of its wildlife heritage by Eastern forces and the major damage to an increasing and highly sustainable wildlife tourist industry not available on other continents.
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