Rhino Economics – Part 2:
Rhino are protected, in most countries, by laws against poaching and illegal trade, but the incentives and resources available to enforce these laws are limited especially in countries battling with civil war and famine. Even in South Africa, home to 80% of the world’s rhinos, where resource allocation is above average criminals manage to stay one step ahead of security forces, despite the deployment of soldiers in the renowned Kruger National Park, which has been hardest hit. Crime syndicates and terrorists are outgunning those on the frontline of wildlife protection and pose a deadly and immediate threat to both people and animals. Last year 8 wildlife rangers were killed in Kenya alone.
Kenya’s Nairobi Park is a well-funded and heavily guarded sanctuary, yet even here the rhino aren’t safe. Despite new laws imposing heavier fines and jail sentences for poachers in Kenya, a rhino was poached from the Nairobi Park earlier this year. A report from Nairoibi-based NGO WildlifeDirect’s found that in the last 5 years, just 4% of those convicted of wildlife crimes in 18 courts in affected regions were sent to jail. Those who escaped prison were mostly fined yet the fines levied were consistently far below the maximum 40,000 Kenyan shillings (£277) and in some cases were just £1 per item. New laws now mean maximum fines have increased to 20m Kenyan shillings (£140,000) and up to life in prison.
Corruption, as opposed to subterfuge, is thought to be a significant factor in the movement of illegal wildlife product out of Africa. In 2013, between 40 and 60 rhinos are thought to have been poached in Kenya, but not a single horn was recovered. Kenya has begun inserting microchips into rhino horns and wildlife officials plan eventually to microchip all the rhinos in the country, just over 1,000 animals altogether.
Rhino horn as a product deserves special consideration, especially when looking at the debate around legalising the trade. It is a renewable resource that can be easily harvested without killing rhinos. African conservation agencies and landowners already hold a significant supply of confiscated rhino horn (above the annual demand of black market trade). These stockpiles are worth millions of pounds.
The natural mortality rate of rhinos in Africa alone yields horn levels close to black market demand.