Horny? Dial 1-800-RHINO

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 want my horns back’ says SA rhino baron after trade deal goes pear-shaped


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?


Dear John,

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.

Crush and snort the horn fiends

Happy World Rhino Day.

I don’t know what’s in worse shape – the world or the rhino. There was a time when I wanted to save the world. As a child I’d see a shooting star, or the chicken’s wishbone would snap my way, and my mother would say, “Make a wish!” Stupidly, I would wish for world peace instead of for a meteorite to destroy my school.

I kept wishing for world peace right into my thirties. I only stopped when it became apparent that my wishes were not only not working, but they seemed to be having the opposite effect. Every time I wished for peace on a shooting star (I couldn’t afford a chicken for much of my thirties) a fresh conflict would erupt somewhere in the world.

I have given up on the world and I am now bestowing my wishes upon the rhino. I only hope that every time I wish for an end to poaching, a rhino doesn’t get a bullet in the face.

Like Gurthro Steenkamp, rhinos are not easy on the eye. They are belligerent and not very bright. However, I admire their solitary nature and the fact that they come together only for mating. I can but dream of such a world.

The South African government is clearly incapable of protecting them. Newspapers are awash in pictures of dead rhinos when the nation is crying out for pictures of dead poachers. We have an army of 50 000 soldiers and yet a handful of barbaric profiteers are winning this war hands down. If Swapo had been poachers, we’d all be speaking Russian today.

By the end of the year, the kill rate will have reached almost three a day. If this were America losing their bison – no wait, the European settlers already did to the bison what the Mozambicans are doing to our rhino. The point is, if a foreign country were decimating, say, the giant Californian beaver, there would be, as Barack Obama is fond of saying, consequences.

I’m all for airstrikes on Ho Chi Minh City, but we need our air force on standby in case we are attacked by Swaziland’s King Mswati. Having just taken yet another teenage bride, he must be so stuffed with Viagra by now that he probably thinks he’s virile enough to penetrate our borders over and over again until we beg for mercy.

If we can’t bomb Vietnam, how about a trade boycott? What would we lose? What do we get from them apart from pole dancers and rice?

Meanwhile, new research has discovered an entire underclass of aspirant horn fiends in this glittering jewel of a country. Around four million already use it. Millions more will buy it once they have the means to do so.

While some use it to cure diseases like cancer – with a proven success rate of 0.00 percent – it is predominately used as a status symbol and a general panacea. In other words, if a guest at your cocktail party has a headache, you’re not going to give her a Panado. Hell, no. You’re going to put her on her knees, tilt her head back and pour half a gram of crushed horn onto her tongue while the other guests cheer loudly and raise their glasses of bear bile and panda pituitary glands.

If you went to a similar party in Camps Bay, Sandton or Umhlanga, you would be less than impressed if the host put out bowls containing the equivalent of compressed toenail clippings. You would want to know where the cocaine was. And rightly so.

The Vietnamese have access to the best opium and heroin in the world, and yet they offer their friends something with no narcotic or curative properties whatsoever. That’s not my idea of a fun party.

The World Wide Fund for Nature-SA hopes to change the Vietnamese views on rhino horn’s desirability as a status symbol by enhancing the desirability of other status symbols, such as cars and designer clothing.

In other words, we need to treat them like children. “Look what I have for you, Phong Dong! I will give you this sparkly Michael Jackson jacket with pretty pockets and shiny buttons if you give me that yucky packet of boring old powder.”

“Fuck you! No jacket! Want horn! Don’t want … ooh, is that latest Toyota Fortuna? Here, take horn. You give me keys.”

Converting the Vietnamese aristocracy from horn-snorting, dog-eating savages into decent capitalists won’t be easy, especially since it’s a communist country. Luckily, today’s commies are easily influenced by the finer things in life. Look how quickly Blade Nzimande was co-opted, although he is more of a champagne socialist than he is a genuine communist. He’s also more into white wine than white rhino.

I don’t think we can rely on media campaigns achieving much. For a start, conservationists discovered that showing the Vietnamese graphic images of bleeding or dead rhinos had little effect. Apart, perhaps, from making them feel hungry.

I was hoping some of the more serious-minded TV channels would take up the fight. This week the Discovery Channel was advertising a programme called Forbidden. “Join in as we meet the pony girl from the USA – a woman who has spent half her life living as a pony.”

I laughed and laughed. Then I curled up in the foetal position and cried myself to sleep.