National Geographic : 2016 Oct
deadly Trade 81 Seven months earlier Hume had taken his own initiative to get the 2009 domestic ban on rhino horn trading lifted when he joined Johan Krüger’s lawsuit as a co-plaintiff—the same lawsuit Groenewald claims is secretly his. Hume relied on a simple technicality to make his case: The government, he said, had failed to adequately notify the public before imple- menting the ban, because it had failed to consult the world’s top rhino rancher—him—before it enacted its moratorium. Hume’s case was heard on September 22, 2015, World Rhino Day. He won—good news for Groenewald—and the ruling has been upheld through two appeals. The government has filed a final appeal, and the ban remains in force pend- ing the outcome. Meanwhile Groenewald and Hume are both preparing to sell rhino horn. Groenewald tells me that shortly after the win in court last year, he brought a group of eight Asian men to inspect Hume’s rhino horn stockpile. “It’s like you take kids, five or six years old, and you put them in a Toys ‘R’ Us,” Groenewald says. But lifting the domestic ban is only half the rhino bosses’ battle. Because there’s virtually no market for rhino horn in South Africa, they need the international ban to be lifted too. And that’s unlikely, since neither Vietnam nor China has indicated formal interest in legalizing the rhino horn trade. Hume’s lawyer, Izak du Toit, tells me that in extreme circumstances law-abiding peo- ple may feel that they have no option other than to break the law as an act of civil disobedience. Private rhino ranchers, who are forbidden to sell their horn and whose staff and animals are under threat from poachers, may choose to trade their horn anyway. He draws a comparison to apart- heid: “Black people had to transgress the very law they objected to in order to show it was illegal.” “ Who cares what they do with it?” Groe- newald says. “If they want to take it illegally out of the country, it’s their problem.” Hume isn’t bothered that rhino horn is snake oil when it comes to treating serious maladies. “I’m not ashamed that the rhino horn I make available to the world could possibly be ingested by somebody who’s got cancer and he dies any- way. It’s not going to help them. I have arthritis. I take at least six bloody remedies. And as far as I can see, none of them work.” What has worked so far, for Dawie Groe- newald, is South Africa’s legal system. When it comes to rhino horn, he hopes it works just a little bit more. “If they legalize it, I’m going to be the main man selling it.” j A two-man security team deploys by helicopter at sunset for antipoaching duties on Hume’s rhino ranch. Hume reckons he spends $330,000 a month to operate the ranch, $200,000 of which goes to keeping his rhinos safe. He has joined a lawsuit to lift South Africa’s ban on rhino horn trading.