The largest rhino breeder in South Africa, John Hume, held a very controversial rhino horn auction on the 23rd August. 264 rhino horns were open to registered online bidders for over 72 hours.
Hume owns over 1 500 rhinos in the North West province. He trims his Rhinos’ horns harmlessly while they are under sedation to deter poachers from killing them for their horns. The horns regrow naturally, making the selling of rhino horn a great opportunity for a sustainable trade.
Hume has been under tremendous criticism for his breeding operation; he’s been accused of seeking profit from the rhino crisis. Other concerns, such as the lack of local buyers and fueling the black market trade, have been voiced by anti-traders. However, others argue that he is doing so much to secure a future for the endangered animals. John Hume stresses that the money he will obtain from the auction will be used to sustain his breeding operation, which he has been forking out millions to maintain up until now. With other efforts not yielding any positive results, perhaps the fact of the matter is “Trade, not aid, will help to save Africa’s rhino.”
The first legal rhino horn auction in South Africa posed a lot of challenges for Hume. Although Edna Molewa, The Minister of Environmental Affairs, compiled a court order issuing a permit for the selling of rhino horn, the process was not a simple affair.
A couple of weeks before the auction, Hume received an email stating that his permit was granted; however, in papers filed in court, Minister Edna Molewa said that the email was invalid as the official who had informed Hume that his permit was granted did not have the authority to do so – Molewa stated that only she has the authority to grant such a permit.
Judge Neil Tuchten delivered his judgement in court, stating that there wasn’t “valid defence given by the Minister“. She had received Hume’s application in May and the application should have taken no more than 20 working days to complete. Judge Neil Tuchten ordered that the department must grant Hume a permit within 12 hours and pay his legal costs.
John Hume did not disclose how many horns were sold, the names of the bidders nor the price the horn went for during the action. He did state that Edna Molewa had obstructed the auction from going ahead till the very last moment, which he believes discouraged more buyers from registering. However, the auction has made one major breakthrough. Izak du Toit, Hume’s attorney stated that “The auction yielded fewer bidders and fewer sales than anticipated‚ but the legal domestic trade has now been re-established and the road has been paved for future sales”.
But all efforts on Hume’s part have not been in vain. A second rhino horn auction will happen as soon as the permit to sell the horn has been issued. The application for this was submitted on the 8th September 2017. So, a definite date has not been confirmed; however, there is horn available to sell and the doors for trade have been opened.
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