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Is John Hume Dealing with Criminal Syndicates in Auctioning His Rhino Horn?

WASHINGTON, DC — Environmentalists today questioned whether John Hume will sell rhino horn to the criminal syndicates that currently commission the poachers and smuggle wildlife products out of Africa. Hume recently told a reporter that he was “happy” to supply the criminal poaching networks driving the animals to extinction with a legal alternative.

Allan Thornton, president of the non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said: “Selling rhino horn to criminal syndicates or their representatives will be a capitulation to transnational organized crime which will deepen the problem of corruption and further endanger rhinos.”

Hume, who is auctioning 500kg of rhino horn between August 23rd and 25th, is targeting Chinese and Vietnamese buyers via his Chinese and Vietnamese language websites. Hume’s lawyer, Izak du Toit has stated that “We don't know who the buyers are, and we are not required by law to ask.”

It is commonly known that powerful, ultraviolent and ruthless criminal syndicates have been linked to South Africa’s rhino horn trade. Criminal syndicates undermine wildlife conservation efforts and put those who dedicate their lives to protect South Africa’s wild rhinos at risk. The criminal syndicates Hume is unconcerned about have caused the intensive slaughter of South Africa’s wild rhinos, enacting a reign of terror within South Africa as they spread corruption and malfeasance. Much of the poached wild rhino horn from South Africa is smuggled into Vietnam and China by operatives based in South Africa and/or Mozambique.

The EIA investigated and exposed Taiwanese and Chinese syndicates that moved six tonnes of rhino horns for sale into China in the early 1990s. EIA exposed one tonne of the rhino horn in a southern China warehouse after a China-based syndicate offered to sell EIA investigators the rhino horn. Taiwan and China banned rhino domestic horn trade in 1992 and 1993, respectively and by 1996, rhino populations worldwide had begun to stabilize due to declining prices, demand and rhino poaching.

Vietnam and China are currently the largest importers of poached rhino horn from South Africa, but both countries have increased enforcement against rhino horn trade in recent years. China is also enacting a domestic ban on elephant ivory, to be fully implemented by the end of 2017.

EIA believes the implementation and enforcement of domestic bans on rhino horn trade, which eliminate demand for rhino horn and simplify enforcement, is the only proven measure that has worked to conserve and protect rhinos worldwide.

Danielle Grabiel, EIA’s senior wildlife policy analyst said: “Hume’s plan to blast open the Vietnamese and Chinese markets via his auction websites is a recipe for more rhino slaughter by transnational criminal syndicates. The key to saving rhinos is to work with the governments of Vietnam and China to rigorously enforce their domestic rhino horn trade bans.”

Danielle Grabiel, Senior Policy Analyst, dgrabiel@eia-global.org

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