Letter: For the sake of a few precious rhinos

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The Independent Online
Sir: Unlike elephants (Letters, 17 April), rhinos really are on the verge of extinction in the wild, and 'sustainable utilisation' of their horn is impossible. The trade is rightly illegal. The problem is that the poachers, traders and their Yemeni, Korean and Taiwanese customers evade the ban.

The only long-term solution is to de-monetarise the horn. If a chemical company would develop a matrix to bind compressed animal hair into a product indistinguishable from rhino horn outside a hi-tech laboratory, and then covertly penetrate the illegal trade with it, they could progressively increase supply, flood the market, force down the price and make poaching uneconomic. Cattle tails and hoofs from abattoirs would be promising ingredients.

The company might even make a profit. The traders could probably increase theirs, reducing their incentive to look too hard at the new source of supply (which might be presented as corrupt sale of South African official stocks). The customers would be happy; and so would the rhinos.

Why will no one try it? Nothing else is working.

Yours faithfully,


Upper Coxley, Somerset

17 April

The writer was Deputy High Commissioner, Zimbabwe, 1983-86.