Former billionaire auctions world’s largest rhino farm after spending his fortune saving animals

Johannesburg — He spent his vast fortune on a thirty-year quest to save the rhinoceros. Today, at 81, his money is almost gone, and South African environmentalist John Hume is throwing in the towel.

Later this week, Hume will auction his rhino farm (the world’s largest) to the highest bidder.

“There is nothing left but 2,000 rhinos and 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) of land,” Hume quipped in an interview with AFP before the sale.

John Hume poses for a photo at his ranch and rhino farm outside Johannesburg, South Africa, in file photo December 4, 2015.

Waldo Swigers/Bloomberg/Getty

Home to nearly 80% of the world’s rhinoceros, South Africa has become a hotspot for poaching due to demand from Asia, where its horns are used in traditional medicine with alleged therapeutic benefits.

The government said 448 rare animals were killed across the country last year, just three fewer than in 2021, despite increased protection at national parks such as the famous Kruger.

Poachers are increasingly targeting privately owned reserves in search of horns composed primarily of hard keratin, the same substance found in human fingernails.

They are very popular on the black market, with a price per weight comparable to that of gold or cocaine, at an estimated $60,000 per kilogram.

Hume said he has generously spent about $150 million over the years on massive philanthropic projects to save the world’s second-largest land mammal.

“From a rhino standpoint, it was definitely worth it,” a man in his 80s with glasses and a plaid shirt told Zoom in an interview. “There are more rhinos on the planet than when I started the project.”

A blindfolded white rhino fights the effects of a tranquilizer gun before being beheaded on October 16, 2017 at rhino keeper John Hume’s ranch in South Africa’s North West Province.

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Hume, a former businessman who made his fortune developing tourist destinations, said he fell in love with animals after buying his first specimen by accident after retiring with dreams of running a farm.

“I used up all my savings for the rhino population for 30 years and finally ran out of money,” he said.

About 2,000 southern white rhinos live on his heavily protected farm in a closed location in the North West Province. The southern white rhino was hunted to near extinction in the late 19th century, but has slowly recovered thanks to decades of conservation and breeding efforts.

The Red List compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) now classifies white rhinos as ‘Near Threatened’, leaving about 18,000 white rhinos remaining after their decline over the past decade.

Miles of fencing, cameras, heat detectors, and ranger units patrol the site, and about 100 employees work there.

Heavy security is intended to deter poachers from sending the message that “the chance is not to be missed,” said Brandon Jones, the farm’s security chief.

Two armed guards stand for a picture at rhino breeder John Hume’s ranch in South Africa’s North West Province on October 16, 2017.

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But Mr Jones said the exercise was only partially successful because poachers just go elsewhere and kill the rhinos.

“We are simply diverting them from our reserves. We know they will target areas where they are easy to invade and where the risk/reward ratio is favorable,” he said. rice field.

The full extent of security measures taken and the number of armed rangers on guard are being kept confidential.

Still, Hume said monitoring is the farm’s biggest cost, and potential buyers would need a lot of money.

“I hope there are billionaires out there who would rather save rhino populations from extinction than own superyachts,” Hume said, bluntly and outspokenly.

“Maybe someone with $5 million a year is like change.”

Bidding starts at $10 million.

An online auction will be held on Wednesday, offering farms with animals, land and machinery.

Hume said adding 11 tonnes of rhino horn inventory to the lot is open to negotiation.

Rhinos are sprayed with water as their antlers are harvested at rhino breeder John Hume’s ranch in South Africa’s North West Province on October 16, 2017.

Leon Neal/Getty

the horn is Preventive shutdown as a way to deter poachers From killing animals – and would be worth over $500 million on the black market.

Hume believes they should be sold and a legitimate market created to fund conservation projects. He explained to ’60 Minutes’ Four years ago his stock of horns was about half what it is today.

“I have a solution, but the rest of the world and NGOs disagree, and we are losing the war,” Hume angrily lamented. “Unfortunately, on the black market, dead rhino horns are worth more than live ones.”

Hume has argued for years that legal sales would flood the market, drive down prices and put poachers out of business. Speaking to “60 Minutes,” he compared the situation to America before the ban was lifted.

“All you’ve done is create a black market and the world’s criminals, the world’s Al Capone, were very active when you tried to ban alcohol in America. Now we We did the same thing with rhino horn.It created criminals and pushed prices to the ceiling.The ban never worked.” Former billionaire auctions world’s largest rhino farm after spending his fortune saving animals

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