The world’s largest rhino farm has been acquired by the NGO African Parks. It was established in South Africa to save the species from poaching.
The 7,800-hectare Platinum Rhino farm, housing 2,000 white rhinos, now belongs to the organisation associated with Prince Harry.
African Parks stated, “African Parks has become the new owner of Platinum Rhino, the world’s largest private captive breeding operation for rhinos.” the NGO said in a statement.
The farm’s founder, wealthy businessman John Hume, had put it up for auction due to the high costs involved in his conservation efforts. Despite his efforts, no buyers emerged, putting the rhinos at risk of poaching.
African Parks, with support from the South African government and conservation groups, stepped in to secure the future of these animals.
Wealthy businessman John Hume, 81, opened the farm in 2009. Faced with the exorbitant costs of his vast project, he put his property up for auction in April, saying he was looking for another “millionaire” to take over.
“Breeding rhinos is an expensive hobby”, the breeder admitted in an interview with AFP before the sale, adding that he had “run out of money”. Mr Hume, who did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, said he had spent a total of 150 million dollars to save the large mammal.
“No offers have been received, putting these rhinos in great danger of poaching”, African Parks pointed out.
The organisation’s CEO, Peter Fearnhead, quoted in the press release, explained that he was “morally obliged to find a solution for these declining wild animals”. Even though he had “never originally intended to become the owner of a business breeding rhinos in captivity and 2,000 rhinos”.
The NGO, which did not say how much it had paid, received support from the South African government and conservation organisations, as well as financial assistance for the purchase.
South Africa is home to nearly 80% of the world’s white rhino population, now estimated at less than 13,000 specimens.
The country has become a hotbed of poaching, driven by demand from Asia, where keratin horns – the same substance as human fingernails or hair – are used in traditional medicine for their alleged therapeutic or aphrodisiac effects.
In 2022, 448 rhinos were killed in the country, according to the government, despite reinforced anti-poaching measures in national parks.
The thieves of horns, whose price per kilo on the black market rivals the price of gold and has reached 60,000 dollars, have adapted their strategy and are now attacking the more vulnerable private parks.
South Africa’s Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, hailed in the press release an “important agreement”. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) applauded a “lifeline to a near-threatened species”.
African Parks plans to reintroduce farmed rhinos into the wild over the next ten years, in particular by transferring them to protected areas in Africa.