<p>Rhinos graze on John Hume’s land in Klerksdorp, South Africa. Hume owns the largest rhino farm in the world, with more than 1,500 rhinos.</p>

Rhinos graze on John Hume’s land in Klerksdorp, South Africa. Hume owns the largest rhino farm in the world, with more than 1,500 rhinos.

Photograph by David Chancellor, kiosk

An Inside Look at the World’s Biggest Rhino Farm

John Hume, who’s suing South Africa to make trade in rhino horn legal, shows a National Geographic photographer around his property.

This story was updated on August 23, 2017, to reflect that South Africa has lifted its ban on rhino horn sales and that John Hume is auctioning off a portion of his rhino horn stockpile. Statistics regarding the number of rhinos that Hume owns and the weight of his stockpile have also been updated.

John Hume is a South African rhino farmer. He owns more rhinos than anyone else in the world—as of this August, around 1,500. At his farm in Klerksdorp, about 100 miles southeast of Johannesburg, he has a vet who works year-round dehorning them. That’s allowed him to build up a six-ton stockpile of horn, which is more valuable than gold.

South Africa is home to about 70 percent of the world’s rhinos. Poaching has grown substantially, from 13 rhinos in 2007 to 1,054 in 2016. It was a slight drop from 2015, but still an “unacceptable” number, according to conservationists.

Trading rhino horn across international borders has been banned since 1977, but it remained legal within South Africa until 2009. A spike in rhino horn poaching to meet demand from Asia (mainly Vietnam, where a politician claimed rhino horn cured his cancer) encouraged the environment ministry to pass the ban.

But that meant rhino farmers like Hume, who in part made their living from the rhino horn trade in South Africa, suddenly saw the value of their product drop to zero. They couldn’t sell horn anymore. So they sued the government. And a final court ruling in April opened the way for the domestic trade to begin again.

August 23 marks the first day of a three-day web auction held by Hume, who is selling 264 horns to anyone in South Africa who has a government permit to buy them. Hume says that he spends $170,000 a year on security for his rhinos and that proceeds from the sales will help him pay to protect the animals. (Read more about the online auction.)

National Geographic photographer David Chancellor got an inside look at Hume’s farm in 2015.

Read more stories about wildlife crime and exploitation on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@natgeo.com.

Read This Next

Black homeownership thrives in this NYC neighborhood
COVID-19 is now the deadliest pandemic in U.S. history
Influx of Haitian migrants overwhelms Texas border authorities

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet