The world’s largest rhino farm, Platinum Rhino in the North West, has a new owner after months of struggling to find a buyer.
African Parks, a non-governmental conservation organization that manages 22 protected areas in partnership with 12 governments across Africa, is the new owner of Platinum Rhino and intends to release the more than 2,000 southern white rhinos held here over the next 10 year to resettle back into the wild.
Platinum Rhino, which covers around 8,000 ha, was put up for auction on 26 April, but no bids were received. Bidding for the farm started at $10 million, or R181 million. John Hume, the previous owner who has been conserving and breeding rhinos for years, decided to throw in the towel at the age of 81 after it became unaffordable for him to continue his conservation work.
According to African Parks, he was approached by many concerned people from the conservation sector to offer a solution in order to prevent a possible conservation crisis, and to help secure the future for the endangered species.
“After a thorough due diligence was carried out and with the support of the South African government, as well as emergency funding obtained to make the transaction possible, African Parks agreed to sell the farm and all 2,000 rhinos, about 15% of the global rhino population not in custody, for sale,” says Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks.
“African Parks has one clear goal: to resettle these rhinos in well-managed and safe areas over the next ten years. The breeding program will be phased out and the project will end once all the rhinos have been released into the wild.
“The scale of this undertaking is simply enormous, and therefore terrifying. However, it is also one of the most exciting and globally strategic conservation opportunities. We will work with various governments, funding partners and conservation organizations, who are committed to making this resettlement vision a reality.”
Fisheries, Forestry and Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy congratulated African Parks and Hume on “achieving this important agreement which facilitates a conservation solution for the rhinos currently in a detention facility”.
Over the years, Hume has spent about $150 million (R2.7 billion) on the farm and its nearly 2,000 southern white rhinos. The daily operating costs of the farm apparently amount to around R188 000.
Hume said earlier this year that it was negotiable whether the stock of rhino horns in his possession would be added to the bid. About 10 tons of horns have been cut off preventively over the years as a way to discourage poachers. The horns are estimated to be worth $500 million, or R9 billion, on the black market. It is not clear whether the rhinoceros horns were eventually sold together with the farm and animals.