Price the Rhino, Save the Rhino

One of the best things I saw on my trip to Disney last week was the safari at Animal Kingdom. Sal 11000 Beta, like most kids, loves animals and zoos and she was fascinated to watch them roam around without enclosures. Animal kingdom has a white rhino and a black rhino, both of which been tragically hunted near to the point of extinction.

But that may be about to change:

South Africa, where 75 percent of the world’s rhinos live, is also at the forefront of a counterintuitive move to legalize the rhino horn trade. If adopted, the new policy would promote safer rhino-horn farming: rhinos could be sedated while parts of their horns were cut off, and then the horns would grow back. A team of Australian conservationists signed on to the idea in March. As Kevin Charles Redmon explained at the time on Pacific Standard, lifting a trade ban would ideally increase the supply and lower the price, and thereby lower the incentive for poachers to slaughter the animals.

Legalization remains highly controversial among animal rights activists and wildlife conservationists. The World Wildlife Fund, the Environmental Investigation Agency, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have all been critical of the idea. What if lifting the ban increases demand, as it did in fact following similar, previous experiments with the ivory market? Or what if a legal trade simply establishes a parallel but separate market, while illegal (whole) rhino horns and heads continue to sell underground?

My worry is that the rhino horn sale will go the same way as the elephant tusk sale — a one-off attempt to “flood the market” that simply increases demand. What they need to do is to establish a legal ongoing trade in rhino horn, with private or public/private ownership of the rhinos that will provide both the financial incentive and the financial resources to crack down on poaching.

Look, we use a lot of animals for food, for clothing, for medicine, for whatever. But the cow is not in danger of being extinct. The reason is because people own herds of cows, governments protect their rights to those cows and all of the incentives are aligned toward keeping the population of cows abundant. When you have a species that is useful to humans but is not protected by the firewall of ownership, capitalism and rule of law, the result is a stampede of people who care about grabbing everything around them rather than building a sustainable ongoing market. The bison was hunted near to extinction because no one really gave a shit.

I know the environmentalist don’ts like the idea of people owning magnificent wild animals like rhinos. But as P.J. O’Rourke pointed out, when you claim that something is “priceless” you are literally, as the word says, depriving it of value. Right now, people only protect rhinos out of the goodness of their hearts. That is rarely an effective defense against the reckless greed that makes people kill rhinos and rip out their horns.

Create a market for rhinos, create legal ownership of rhinos and use the power of the state to protect those interests. Then you align the interests toward growing the “herds”. Maybe it won’t be enough to save the rhino. Maybe it will create a market that drives their eventual extinction. But it has a better chance of working than simply hoping against hope that the world wises up.

Comments are closed.

  1. Mississippi Yankee

    I may be wrong but isn’t the only benefit of rhino horn is to be used in Chinese medicine as an aphrodisiac?

    And wouldn’t cutting off guilty Chinese taliwacker serve a duel purpose?

    Thumb up 0

  2. Seattle Outcast

    There already are markets for rhino horn, both in quack medicine and as a dagger sheath. However, the only people that profit of the rhino are poachers and those in the illegal trade. The people that live near them have been denied any financial interest in the rhino horn trade (unless they also want to become poachers and face jail time) so they don’t give a fuck about the rhino.

    This is pretty much the same story with African elephants, except if anything the locals have an incentive to kill them as they tend to destroy crops. But the Asian elephant is doing just fine as they have been “domesticated” and people have a large financial interest in maintaining a population to be used for labor.

    Also, don’t mistreat an elephant in your care. It will fucking kill you for being as asshole if it gets the chance.

    Thumb up 4

  3. AlexInCT

    The only way to protect an animal is to put it in either the food chain or make it something indispensable. When was the last time you heard people worry about cows, pigs, chickens, or lambs going extinct? We should create Rhino farms.

    The thing is that the value of these animal products are directly tied to the their scarcity. Animal rights idiots are usually the ones that help the people profiting from these illegal trades in animal parts that involve abuse the most. If these morons had any clue about how the real world works they would know better. But we all know about people that live in fantasy land.

    Thumb up 10

  4. Seattle Outcast

    What does Rhino taste like? I’ve hear that elephant is actually quite good, but it isn’t showing up at the supermarket like crocodile & alligator. I gather that their size makes them rather difficult choices to be raised as a meat animal, particularly when they figure out what you’re doing and decide to leave.

    Likewise, sea turtle is downright delicious from everything I’ve heard from the locals when I go diving in the Caribbean – but they all talk about you just can’t get it anymore. Those places that depend on actually having turtles around as a tourist attraction (usually from scuba divers) will toss your ass in jail for bothering them, and those turtle populations are recovering. Elsewhere, not so much.

    Thumb up 2

  5. hist_ed

    Rhino Rancher. Hard to think of a more macho manly power title than that. “Fucking bulls are for pussies. Even girls can ranch bulls. I ranch rhinos so that rich impotent Chinese guys can spend shitloads of money on a boner placebo.” OK, maybe the last part kinda ruins it a bit.

    We should legalize it here. Great herds of rhino wandering the Texas badlands. It’s be great.

    Time for yet another “I knew a guy who knew a guy” story. One of my brothers lived in Colorado for many years. His neighbor got the idea of ranching elk. They got a bunch and started breeding. He slaughtered a few and then discovered that elk antlers are also prized as Chinese wang stimulators. He stopped killing the elk and just harvested their antlers every year and made far more money doing that than selling for meat. What is it about Chinese dicks anyway and eating weird shit. Tiger penises, rhino horn, antlers. Maybe we just need to start marketing fake, cheap rhino horn and undercut the real stuff. Put powdered viagra in it so it actually works and then put the poachers out of business.

    Thumb up 13

  6. Seattle Outcast

    What is it about Chinese dicks anyway and eating weird shit.

    I’ll go out on a limb and point out that most Chinese are peasants, superstitious as all hell, mostly uneducated, have an extremely large amount of “folk remedies” that have nothing to do with modern medicine, and have (by comparison to Western cultural attitudes) some mighty weird damned ideas about sex.

    The Japanese are still the world’s perverts.

    Thumb up 3

  7. Mississippi Yankee

    Also, don’t mistreat an elephant in your care. It will fucking kill you for being as asshole if it gets the chance.

    Amen. And some are just natural born assholes themselves. Some like to hit, some like to kick and some will just do a head stand on you.
    By far the most intelligent animal I’ve ever encountered.

    Thumb up 2

  8. Argive

    The bison was hunted near to extinction because no one really gave a shit.

    Yeah, and the fur/robe trades were extremely profitable for the Great Plains Indians and settlers alike. The bison came back mainly because there were strong incentives toward maintaining herds (both publicly and privately-held – Ted Turner owns something like 50,000 bison). Namely, their meat tastes good and people like to see bison when they go to the Great Plains.

    And some are just natural born assholes themselves. Some like to hit, some like to kick and some will just do a head stand on you.

    Thumb up 5

  9. Seattle Outcast

    Exterminating bison was a deliberate act.

    1) You can’t grow crops when several million bison decide to walk all over your homestead

    2) If you want to get rid of the native population, and infecting them with a few plagues hasn’t done the job yet, getting rid of their primary resource for survival usually works pretty well

    Thumb up 5

  10. Argive

    Exterminating bison was a deliberate act.

    1) You can’t grow crops when several million bison decide to walk all over your homestead

    2) If you want to get rid of the native population, and infecting them with a few plagues hasn’t done the job yet, getting rid of their primary resource for survival usually works pretty well

    Oh, I definitely agree with that (also, you can’t build railroads if huge bison herds keep wandering across the tracks). But the hide trade was a big reason for the bison’s near-destruction as well. Not only did the government actively encourage people to slaughter bison in order to drive the Indians on to reservations, their hides were worth a lot of money.

    Thumb up 5

  11. stogy

    But the Asian elephant is doing just fine as they have been “domesticated” and people have a large financial interest in maintaining a population to be used for labor.

    The Asian elephant is not ‘fine’ as you put it. Most are wild, not domesticated (meaning that they are captured from the wild, not bred domesticated). And the majority of the population remains in the wild. Domestication is done more often used for religious parades or tourism than labor.

    There are big problems from habitat loss, crop destruction and human interaction. Poaching still happens, and elephant babies are sometimes stolen from mothers and sold on the black market, meaning that the mother goes nuts and attacks humans and settlements wherever she can find them. Some species are classified as endangered, and numbers are a third what they were a hundred years ago.

    Thumb up 2

  12. hist_ed

    I’ll go out on a limb and point out that most Chinese are peasants

    But the peasants are the ones paying $200 for a bowl of tiger penis soup; it’s the new rich that can afford that shit.

    Thumb up 4

  13. hist_ed

    And SO and Argive, sorry boys but you gots it wrong. There was no policy of eliminating the buffalo. It had nothing to do with killing injuns. Hunting groups were outfitted at great expense and went out after the buffalo were gone and were surprised by their absence. There were huge economic interests that wanted buffalo products. It wasn’t about meat and it wasn’t about fur-those were mainly side shows. Most buffalo were skinned and left to rot (pickled tongue was a big thing-go figure) Buffalo leather was very durable and the biggest driver for the mass hunts was for leather. The industrial revolution had come to the US and factories were expanding by leaps and bounds. They needed belts and such in their various machines and gizmos.

    infecting them with a few plagues hasn’t done the job yet

    This too is bullshit. There is one single actual piece of primary source evidence that talks of giving Indians smallpox blankets. It was written by a British officer during the French and Indian War. The “Americans gave the Indians diseases” crap started in the 1960s and its most proud proponent, a man who almost single handedly brought it to national prominence is none other than fake Indian Ward Churchill of “Little Eichman” fame. Not saying the US was kind to the natives, just that there were more direct about it. When we wanted Indians dead, guns or starvation usually did the trick.

    Finally, while there were some settlers and farmers that had to contend with buffalo before they were killed off, it was the post-buffalo cattle drives that really created problems (and a few range wars). The invention of barbed wire and the extension of railroads further into cattle territory dried them up.

    Thus endeth the lesson.

    Thumb up 4

  14. Seattle Outcast

    They may be rich, but they’re still Chinese. Culture is one of those things you generally just can’t shrug off, no matter how much money or education you get – I know people with ten figure incomes that live pretty much the same life I do, only with a bigger house, better & longer vacations, more toys, and a yacht.

    They still watch football, grill burgers, drink beer, and will call you a fucking douchebag if you deserve it. They grew up with the same movies, food, version of history, and tv shows – so if all of China grew up hearing that tiger cock soup will “make the yang strong”, then you can damned well bet that a rich Chinese businessman will spend $200 for a bowl of it before he bangs his Mongolian hooker (tip of the hat to Lee for that reference). And if horny granpa wins big at the gambling tables, he’ll do the same thing.

    Thumb up 2

  15. stogy

    Interesting. Hist ed, I have now spent an hour reading up on this. I assume you mean the correspondence relating to the siege of Fort Pitt:

    I will try to inoculate the bastards with some blankets that may fall into their hands, and take care not to get the disease myself.” Amherst in turn replied on July 16, 1763: “You will do well to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.

    The Turtles Heart a principal Warrior of the Delawares and Mamaltee a Chief came within a small distance of the Fort Mr. McKee went out to them and they made a Speech letting us know that all our [?] as Ligonier was destroyed, that great numbers of Indians [were coming and] that out of regard to us, they had prevailed on 6 Nations [not to] attack us but give us time to go down the Country and they desired we would set of immediately. The Commanding Officer thanked them, let them know that we had everything we wanted, that we could defend it against all the Indians in the Woods, that we had three large Armys marching to Chastise those Indians that had struck us, told them to take care of their Women and Children, but not to tell any other Natives, they said they would go a speak to their Chiefs and come and tell us what they said, they returned and said they would hold fast of the Chain of friendship. Out of our regard to them we gave them two Blankets and a Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.

    There is also a dodgy-looking tome on the evidence in Canada for deliberately distributing pox-infected blankets. Not sure if it’s worth the investment. Here’s an erm… a review.

    Thumb up 1

  16. Argive

    There was no policy of eliminating the buffalo. It had nothing to do with killing injuns. Hunting groups were outfitted at great expense and went out after the buffalo were gone and were surprised by their absence. There were huge economic interests that wanted buffalo products. It wasn’t about meat and it wasn’t about fur-those were mainly side shows. Most buffalo were skinned and left to rot (pickled tongue was a big thing-go figure) Buffalo leather was very durable and the biggest driver for the mass hunts was for leather. The industrial revolution had come to the US and factories were expanding by leaps and bounds. They needed belts and such in their various machines and gizmos.

    Yeah, I should have been more specific when talking about bison “hides.” The industrial economy of the 1870s and 1880s definitely was the biggest driver in slaughtering the bison. After reading up on it more, it wasn’t so much that there was an official government policy of wanting bison dead, but Sherman and some other US government officials did encourage the mass destruction of bison as a means of weakening the Indians (the Army had done that sort of thing before, the most famous example probably being Kit Carson’s destruction of Navajo sheep in 1864). That encouragement was hardly the first thing on most bison hunters’ minds, but I think the real significance of it is that there were no effective impediments to the elimination of the bison until there were only a few hundred left.

    Prior to major American industrialization, though, demand for bison fur was one of the major drivers for mass bison hunts. The Plains Indians found that the horse allowed them much more flexibility in killing large numbers of bison, and their hunts placed a lot of strain on the bison population. Still, in many areas the bison populations were able to partially recover until the major commercial hunts began.

    This too is bullshit. There is one single actual piece of primary source evidence that talks of giving Indians smallpox blankets. It was written by a British officer during the French and Indian War. The “Americans gave the Indians diseases” crap started in the 1960s and its most proud proponent, a man who almost single handedly brought it to national prominence is none other than fake Indian Ward Churchill of “Little Eichman” fame. Not saying the US was kind to the natives, just that there were more direct about it. When we wanted Indians dead, guns or starvation usually did the trick.

    I agree that the “Indians got smallpox blankets” thing is incorrect, but European diseases like smallpox were a huge problem for the Indians. They got exposed to the diseases simply in the course of interacting with settlers, especially in the 16-and 1700s. We don’t know how many Indians died (some historians estimate that entire communities were wiped out), but in many cases it was high enough to drive those Indians left alive out of their villages and further inland.

    Thumb up 3

  17. stogy

    I agree that the “Indians got smallpox blankets” thing is incorrect,

    Not exactly incorrect – see my links and quotes above above.

    Thumb up 0

  18. Argive

    Not exactly incorrect – see my links and quotes above above.

    No, but there wasn’t an organized effort by the government to give Indians smallpox. Wasn’t really necessary, when you think about it, since the disease was so infectious.

    Thumb up 2

  19. Seattle Outcast

    If I remember my History Channel correctly, native tribes had been recently decimated by a number of plagues that occurred shortly before Europeans began arriving. Much of it they traced back to several years of drought which eventually triggered a large rat population infected with a variety fun diseases. In essence, the America’s had been severely depopulated just in time for an invading force from Europe to show up with an eye for new land.

    Thumb up 1

  20. hist_ed

    The big difference between the two version (aside from one being true and one being false) is motivation: the spread of European diseases to the Americas was inevitable and accidental. It is often portrayed as a deliberate genocide. The Spanish in particular were concerned about it because all their slave labor was dying off (this is one of the big drivers of the African slave trade to replace the lost labor).

    SO: Haven’t seen or heard of that theory (gonna look into it). I have always thought that the big die of was the result of European contact, not something prior. Thanks

    Thumb up 1

  21. Mississippi Yankee

    If you’ve ever been a smoker then you must realize the Indians got “heap big revenge” when they introduced us to tobacco.

    Thumb up 0