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Want to Buy a Rhino (or 20)? South Africa Tries New Conservation Tactic

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Image: White rhino in South Africa's Kruger National Park
A white rhino is seen in South Africa's Kruger National Park in 2010.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP - Getty Images

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's Kruger National Park wants to sell 500 rhinos to counter a wave of poaching for their horns, highly prized in some Asian countries as a sign of wealth. In newspaper ads on Sunday, South African National Parks invited potential buyers to "make a written offer to purchase white rhinos in batches of 20 or more." The hope is that private owners can protect the animals — private ranchers already own around 5,000 of South Africa's 20,000 rhinos, for eco-tourism and legal trophy hunts (although some are hoping that trade in rhino horn will be legalized). More than 1,000 were poached in South Africa last year, three times the tally in 2010, to meet soaring demand for rhino horn. The 2014 total is expected to exceed that record number: Government data shows at least 821 have been killed illegally so far this year, 531 of them in Kruger.

Rhinos are traded in an open private market. But Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association, said security is costly, with private owners already spending about $24 million a year on it. And in terms of prices, as an investment, white rhinos haven’t done well over the past 20 years, he said.

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