South Africa’s largest rhino farm is now cutting off the animal’s horn in order to save its life.
In less than fifteen minutes, Michelle Otto’s team calms the animal and saws off the horn, which they argue makes the animal less attractive to poachers, thus saving it’s life, adding that the animals are also less likely to get hurt when they clash.
“When we cut the horn we are careful not to touch any of the sensitive part. At the place where we cut there are no blood vessels, no nerves. So it could not be painful, it ‘ is like cutting nails or hair, for example, “ explains Michelle Otto, a vet in the farm.
The operation must however be frequently repeated as the horn regrows.
John Hume is the owner of the 1,200-rhino farm and he tells the Telegraph that he would be “happy” to supply the criminal poaching networks driving the animals to extinction with a legal alternative and the money raised would help him protect his own herd.
Hume is fighting for the legalization of international trade of the horns, which was banned in 1977.
Just like the human fingernails, the rhino horn is only composed of keratin, but it is very popular in Asia, where it is believed to have medicinal properties.
“What I am doing here is not profitable for me. The costs are too high, the only way for me to fund these costs is to sell my rhinoceros horns and use that money to protect them. So the people who prevent me from selling the horns and protect my animals might as well join forces with the poachers because ultimately they will kill my rhinos,” Hume says.
John Hume sold his hotels in 2008 to open his ranch and today, he spends 162,000 USD per month to secure the ranch with armed men and high tech equipment.
John Hume’s critics however perceive his activities as primarily business he sits pretty with 5 tons of the cut horns which are weighed, tagged and placed under seals in secret places and guarded 24/7. In the black market, a kilogram of rhino horns will set you back 60,000 USD.
Nearly 1,200 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year.