In response to Bryan Christy’s article – Special Investigation: Inside the Deadly Rhino Horn Trade (This story appears in the October 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine),
I am very disappointed that a publication with the reputation of National Geographic has published such an irresponsible and scurrilous article at a time when realistic and sustainable options for rhino conservation should be receiving global attention. My name is Albina Hume. I am an author, a private rhino guardian and John Hume’s wife, and understandably I was appalled by the first line of the article “Here’s how a pair of South Africans could undermine the international efforts to protect the vulnerable animals.” Character assassination by innuendo is the realm of the gutter press which thrives on unsubstantiated allegations and distortions, and can be extremely harmful to the innocent subjects involved.
How can Bryan Christy even begin to consider linking Dawie Groenewald, the world’s most wanted man when it comes to rhino horn trafficking, with John Hume, who has built up a deserved reputation for his dedication to successfully breeding rhinos for future generations and who is currently protecting 1409 rhinos? John did indeed buy some rhinos from Groenewald, and for this he should be praised, not castigated. Furthermore, they do not know each other very well. By buying these animals, John succeeded in keeping them alive and spared them the fate they would have suffered had Groenewald kept them.
These rescued rhinos are now the true ambassadors of the plight for their species which John bravely pioneered, and have become an integral part of the world’s most successful rhino breeding program. At a time when poaching of rhinos has reached unprecedented levels in southern African countries, John’s commitment has resulted in 955 rhinos being bred on his property, a contribution to the future of the species that has no equal.
He is indeed a firm advocate of opening a strictly controlled international trade in legally produced rhino horn which can be harvested on a renewable basis without a single animal being killed. Christy should have made an effort identify and interview the growing number of professional and dedicated conservationists in southern Africa who are now staunch advocates of a legal trade in rhino horn as the only realistic and sustainable option for producing the funds required for field protection.
A ban on trade in rhino products was imposed in good faith by member states of CITES in 1977, to address the explosion of rhino poaching. The ban is clearly not working as rhino losses from horn poachers are still increasing. It has simply driven the trade in horn underground into a very fertile, lucrative black market resulting in custodians paying all the costs of rhino protection and criminals taking 100% of the profits. The illegal trade kills rhinos and the ban on trade makes dead rhinos more valuable than live rhinos. Legal trade would reverse this and make live rhinos more valuable than dead rhinos. The “deadly trade” referred to by Christy is the one conducted by the criminals like Dawie Groenewald – John Hume keeps his rhinos alive in excellent condition.