BRISBANE, Australia, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- A legal trade in rhino horn may be the only chance to save the imperiled animals from extinction, an Australian environmental scientist says.
Duan Biggs of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and University of Queensland, writing with three colleagues in the journal Science, argues a global ban on rhino products has failed and death rates among the world's remaining black and white rhinos are soaring due to illegal poaching to supply insatiable international demand.
"Current strategies have clearly failed to conserve these magnificent animals and the time has come for a highly regulated legal trade in horn," Biggs said.
"As committed environmentalists we don't like the idea of a legal trade any more than does the average member of the concerned public," he said. "But we can see that we need to do something radically different to conserve Africa's rhino."
The entire world demand for horn could be met legally by humanely shaving the horns of live rhinos and from animals that die of natural causes, the scientists said.
The Western Black Rhino was declared extinct in 2011, and the researchers estimate there are only 5,000 Black Rhinos and 20,000 White Rhinos left, mostly in South Africa and Namibia.
"Skyrocketing poaching levels are driven by tremendous growth in the retail price of rhino horn, from around $4,700 per kilogram [$2,130 per pound] in 1993 to around $65,000 per kilogram [$25,00 per pound] in 2012," they wrote.
"Rhino horn is now worth more than gold," the scientists noted, explaining the growth is attributed to soaring demand by affluent Asian consumers for Chinese medicines.
Rhinos grow almost 2 pounds of horn each year and the risks to the animal from today's best-practice horn harvesting techniques are minimal, they said. They cited the legal trade in farmed crocodile skins is an example of where legalization has saved a species from being hunted to extinction.
|Additional Science News Stories|
MAYS LANDING, N.J., May 18 (UPI) --A New Jersey woman was charged with murder Friday after police found her husband's body in a closet six years after he supposedly ran off with a girlfriend.
WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) --James Taylor will headline a concert at the White House next week, when the Library of Congress honors Carole King with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
OVERLAND PARK, Kan., May 18 (UPI) --U.S. phone service Sprint said it would mitigate the hardship on U.S. Cellular customers affected by Sprint's purchase of some of Cellular's business.