Business Maverick


The opening bid for world’s largest white rhino population is $10m

The opening bid for world’s largest white rhino population is $10m
Rhinos roam around in John Humeís farm on 8 September 2016 in Klerksdorp, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Conrad Bornman)

The details of rhino tycoon John Hume’s auction for his breeding project – representing an estimated 13% of the world’s white rhino population at least – have now been unveiled. The opening bid has been set at $10m (R182m) and includes 2,000 white rhinos, other game, the 8,500 hectares they roam in North West province and a state-of-the-art security system. 

The auction will take place from 26 April to 1 May and the details can be viewed at the Swift Vee site for livestock and game auctions.

“Platinum Rhino is a registered captive breeding operation for conservation purposes to save a threatened species from extinction. In 2008, the population founders were sourced from 95 locations around South Africa, and due to poaching many of these populations no longer exist, making Platinum Rhino, as a genetic nucleus, irreplaceable,” says the description of the project up for auction. 

“Platinum Rhino is now the largest and most successful Southern White Rhino breeding and protection project in the world. Underpinned with a comprehensive biological and breeding management plan, the experienced and dedicated veterinary team, enables Platinum Rhino to breed 200 progeny a year. The state-of-the-art security system and world class security team  affords the project fool-proof security and not one Rhino has been lost to poaching since March 2017,” it says. 

Rhinos roam around in John Humeís farm on 8 September 2016 in Klerksdorp, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Conrad Bornman)

Hume, who is now in his early 80s and made a fortune in the hotel industry, has long maintained he has a passion for rhinos stemming from their endangered or “underdog” status. Critics have detected a profit motive behind his passion – and he has tonnes of rhino horn in storage which would be worth far more than $10-million if the global ban on trade in rhino horn was ever lifted. Hume’s rhinos, like many elsewhere including in the Kruger National Park, are dehorned as an anti-poaching measure on a regular basis as the substance grows back.

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But scientists and conservationists have also applauded Hume’s project, which has demonstrably added to rhino numbers at a time when they have been in sharp decline in the face of the poaching onslaught for horn, which is coveted for carving and medicinal purposes in China and Vietnam.

Indeed, most of South Africa’s rhinos, around 8,000 animals or 60% of the national herd, are now in private hands. Private operators have simply done a better job at thwarting poachers than state reserves. And at least half of all the remaining white and black rhinos in Africa are now found on private reserves or communal land, according to one recent report.

Read on Daily Maverick: Saving private rhino — non-government owners of the animals succeed in stemming poaching carnage

Read on Daily Maverick: Private and communal lands conserve half of Africa’s rhinos, and call for ‘adaptive policies’

Hume’s project is a registered “captive breeding operation”, legal terminology that to some critics conjures images of livestock. But no rhino species has ever been domesticated and you can hardly walk up to one of Hume’s animals to stroke its chin. Unable to trade in horn, Hume has been trying to find investors willing to buy some of his rhino for “rewilding”, a broad movement which seeks to restore wildlife to former historic – and in some cases, prehistoric – ranges. 

John Hume, rhino farmer, poses for a photograph on his ranch outside Johannesburg, South Africa, on 4 December 2015. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

But he’s had no luck on this front, and he told Business Maverick last month that if the auction fails, he will be forced to sell his animals “piecemeal” and will wrap up the breeding project.

We’ll know by early May whether Hume has managed to convince an investor this time round to buy the whole project. DM/BM

Absa OBP

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