Mathematicians propose solution to rhino poaching

Why legalizing the rhino horn trade could prevent extinction

Amir Cohen/Reuters

A group of mathematicians, frustrated by South Africa’s inability to stop rhino poaching, is creating an “optimal management strategy” to save the white rhinos. At an annual math conference, held last week at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, an international group of academics—from Oxford University to the Indian Institute of Technology—began work on the vexing problem. Though the government tightened hunting regulations in 2009 and deploys military aircraft to hunt poachers, poaching has only increased. Today, rhino horn, a prized medicinal ingredient in Asia, sells for $100,000 per kg.

In designing the model, the value of a poacher’s life, the cost of keeping a white rhino safe, and the worth of rhinos for tourism must be taken into account, says conservation economist Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes. Their recommendation, expected by year’s end, may be controversial. Legalizing the rhino horn trade to reduce poaching is being considered. Ecologist Norman Owen-Smith believes a rhino policy recommendation based on numbers can help where military might and bunny-hugging platitudes have failed. “Clear logic can help cut through emotion.”




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Mathematicians propose solution to rhino poaching

  1. Oh yes, that really worked for ivory, didn’t it? This is not a nice, clean, tidy world with perfect policing and border control. There is rampant chaos and corruption in the countries that consume rhino horn, and any ‘legal’ trade will easily provide cover for poached products. And incentive for unregulated medicine to continue it’s fraudulent claims of miracle cures, making it worth spending money on serious marketing. End result: more people introduced to horn consumption, even higher prices, extinction stockpiling.

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