Contradictions in the case for legalizing sales of rhino horn

The debate on whether legalizing a product from an endangered species–like rhino or ivory–increases or decreases poaching rages on. This article in South Africa’s The Times argues for farming rhinos, dehorning them and selling rhino horn stockpiles in order to stop poaching. The argument is: why kill a rhino for just one horn, when you could get several from one rhino over its lifetime?

But there’s also a contradiction. The article notes dehorning doesn’t necessarily protect rhinos. Poachers still kill rhinos that don’t have horns. The journalist notes, “The poachers may have spent two days tracking the animal, risking capture and their lives, only to find no horn. They’ll kill it to make sure they don’t waste time tracking that same rhino again.” Plus, it takes three or more years for rhino horn to grow back.  Will these “entrepreneurs” be willing–and financially able–to wait?

Rhino horn seized by US Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo credit: Laurel Neme