I got an email today from my old friend John Hume. We’ve never met, but I like to think of him as a friend. I don’t know if he feels the same. Probably not, since the email came from one Elizabeth van Niekerk, B.Com.(Econ & Law), LLB (Potchefstroom NWU), Legal & Compliance Officer, Buffalo Dream Ranch, Platinum Rhino CBO.
She did, however, specify that she was sending the mail on behalf of her client. Never underestimate the power of plausible deniability.
John has been in the news latelyish. Here’s a story from three months ago:
I received today’s email “because you expressed interest in the online rhino horn auction previously held by us in 2017”. I did? I really have to be more careful about the things I express an interest in.
Basically, he’s trying to sell off his rhino horns. Again.
“Our once-off, offer of a limited addition (sick) of selected horns (approximately 250 kg) with issued DNA certificates and in accordance with all existing permits and trade regulations is open at an extra special low price for each of the three classes: Class A – 10,000 USD per kg (17 horns at 24.584kg); Class B – 7,500 USD per kg (138 horns at 212.659kg); Class C – 3,000 USD per kg (42 horns at 17.236kg), listed on this link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3st28eyujv7p3ty/AAC0vAJtNDdykrhC6EMkabM-a?dl=0
The link lists A, B and C graded horns. I clicked on it but didn’t hang around. It’s like Tinder for rhinos and it made me feel queasy.
So keen is John to get rid of his horns that he is foregoing his usual 30% deposit. “All you have to do is pick your horns off the link and send us your FICA documents … the same as you would need to buy a cell phone …” Rhino horn, cellphone, whatever.
The email jolted something in my banged-up memory. I wrote to John in … well, 2017. There’s probably a connection there somewhere. Here it is again. Bit of date, but then again, isn’t everything?
Congratulations on being the world’s largest rhino breeder. How big are you? Are you the size of a rhino? It doesn’t matter. For all I know, rhino breeders are tiny and you are simply the largest of these small people.
Most people keep dogs and cats, but not you, John. You’re a rhino person. It makes sense. Rhinos don’t sit on your keyboard while you’re trying to work. They don’t hog the couch or take up half the bed. You don’t wake up in the morning to a blast of rhino breath and have to get up and take him for a walk.
Of course, nobody collects rhinos purely for their ornamental value. So it must have been terribly frustrating for you when trade in rhino horn was banned in South Africa in 2009. It would have driven me insane, seeing my rhinos standing about all day doing absolutely nothing to earn their keep.
What good are their horns if they’re not even being used to stab German tourists? At the best of times, rhinos don’t even know what to do with their horns. They just stand there staring at them all day. That’s why so many rhinos are crosseyed. A lot of them are also just plain cross. I suppose it’s because they’re not living at your place, the Playboy mansion of the rhino world, even if it is in Klerksdorp.
Rhinos can’t tell that the place is a dump. Even if they did, I doubt they’d care. They’re just happy not to get shot in the face by a gentleman from Mozambique.
So it must’ve been a tremendous relief when the court forced the environmental affairs department to give you a permit to hold your three-day online auction this week. It’s a good thing we have an independent judiciary that knows the true value of one of our big five.
I tried to register for the auction but the R100 000 deposit was a bit steep. Pity. I was so looking forward to bagging a couple of the 264 horns for my own personal use. To be honest, I would have preferred a whole rhino so that I could cut his horn off at my leisure. If you buy a gram of coke, the dealer doesn’t expect you to schnarf it the moment money changes hands. You can take it home and shove it up your nose when the mood takes you. It should be the same with rhinos. Not that I’d schnarf rhino horn. I’m not from Hanoi, you know.
I understand you have 1 500 rhinos in your garden. I bet you’ve never been burgled. It just occurred to me that rhinos could solve both our poverty and crime problems. Not literally. They’re not awfully bright. Although stick a couple of them in cheap suits and put them around the table at a cabinet meeting and I bet nobody would even notice their lack of input.
What I’m suggesting is that everyone gets a rhino farm. Or at least their own state-subsidised rhino. They make wonderful pets and even better guard dogs. Guard rhinos. I know I wouldn’t rob a house if there was a rhino curled up at the front door. And if you fall on hard times, you can chop his horn off and sell it. That’s R2-million right there. Keep the family in KFC for years.
Your job sounds like a lot of fun. Every couple of years, you grab your tranquiliser gun and run about shooting your fleet of ungulates in the bum. I’m sure they get a big kick out of the chase, too. It’s something to break the tedium. They fall over, have a little nap and wake up a kilogram or two lighter. We could all be so lucky.
And when the horns grow back, you do it all over again. No wonder you have six tons of the stuff lying about the place. Must drive your wife crazy. There’s not much you can do with them either. Doorstoppers. Wind chimes. Something to hang your coat on. That’s about it. Then again, your stash is worth at least R500-million. That’s the kind of language any wife would understand.
The ban on international trade is still in place and your permit stipulates that any horns sold have to stay in South Africa. Of course they will. Our environmental affairs minister says systems are in place to prevent horns from reaching the black market. In fact, so secure are our borders that the only way to smuggle a horn out would be to take it to the Saxonwold shebeen, have it cling-wrapped in R200 notes and couriered to the Waterkloof air force base.
I noticed that your auction website was translated into Mandarin and Vietnamese. This is nothing more than a happy coincidence, I’m sure. You are a man who embraces many cultures and not, as the vegetarians would have it, a man sending out a dog-whistle to the epicentre of the illicit trade in rhino horn.
An average of three rhinos are poached in this country every day. But, as you so rightly point out, flooding the ‘domestic’ market with hundreds of your horns will reduce demand and poachers will be out of a job in no time at all. It’s the same with marijuana. Legalise it and nobody would want it any more. Dagga farmers would have to start growing mielies and stoners would take up golf.
I read that a group called the National Frog Agency hacked your website, claiming that “your lack of common compassion for animals is outrageous”. Ignore them. What is more outrageous is that they can’t tell the difference between a frog and a rhino. This is what happens when you spend your afternoons licking hallucinogenic toads.
You were reported as saying that the proceeds of the auction – which could easily be R200-million – would be spent on protecting your herd. It’s an odd way to describe your family, but then I haven’t met them. Try to keep a bit of money aside for yourself. Buy something nice. Not another rhino. Something you don’t have to keep darting and sawing its nose off.
Listen, John. I have an idea for a movie. It’s called Saving Private Rhino. State Security Minister, David Mahlobo, would be perfect for the villain. I think we can get him. Throw in a free Thai massage and he’s ours. I would want to avoid getting into the whole black rhino, white rhino thing. This isn’t a movie about race. It’s about exploitation and getting as rich as possible off the backs of these dumb brutes. I’m talking about the actors, not the rhinos.
Let’s do lunch.