Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

SA’s first legal online auction of rhino horns opened for bids on Wednesday and 264 horns went on sale after the owner of the world’s biggest private rhino herd won a court case against the government.

The court handed down the order on Sunday to allow the online auction to go ahead after the government delayed handing over the permit to rhino rancher, John Hume. Bidding is scheduled to close at 1pm GMT on Friday.

The rhinos are tranquilised before their horns are harvested making the operation painless. It takes up to two years for the horns to grow back, said Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association.

SA is home to more than 80% of the world’s rhinos, whose population has been devastated by poaching for buyers in Vietnam and China where it is coveted as an ingredient in traditional medicine.

Hume, who owns 1,500 rhinos on his farm in the North West province, has built up a stockpile of rhino horn as he regularly cuts them off his herd to protect against poachers.

Global trade in rhino horn is banned under a UN convention. Any horn acquired legally in SA cannot be exported, but conservationists have expressed concerns that domestic buyers could illicitly supply Asian markets.

Hume has said he needs to sell the horn to accommodate spiralling security costs that include armed patrols, helicopters and electric fencing.


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