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Does a reduction in the price of rhino horn prevent poaching?
- Crookes, Douglas J.
- Journal for nature conservation 2017 v.39 pp. 73-82
- Bayesian theory, Rhinocerotidae, decision making, dehorning, dynamic models, hybrids, issues and policy, prices, uncertainty
- Rhino poaching around the world has increased inordinately, to the extent that concerns exist over the possible survival of the species. An open access rhino poaching model is developed for South African rhino. The model is a hybrid dynamical model, as both a system dynamics model as well as a Bayesian network model are developed. The system dynamics model is used to estimate the unknown parameter values (through optimisation) and also to determine the intervals for the parameters. These intervals are then used in the Bayesian Belief Network model to assess uncertainty. Hybrid approaches improve the ability to validate models compared with conventional modelling. The resultant model indicates that reducing the price of rhino horn would not be effective at curbing poaching, unless poacher costs are also increased. However, increasing poacher costs is not a realistic policy option since these costs are largely beyond the control of decision-makers. The insensitivity of price to poaching effort has implications for methods proposed to reduce the value of rhinos, such as introducing synthetic rhino horn and the de-horning of rhinos.