When it was time for him to retire, John Hume decided he wanted to move a game farm. He wanted to be surrounded by the peace and the beauty of nature. He wanted to be surrounded by animals so he decided to breed some.

Hume started by buying a few, including rhinos and that was 25 years ago. Now, he is the owner of almost 1400 rhinos – the world’s biggest privately-owned rhino farm.

A third of the rhinos in South Africa are privately owned.

“It takes huge amounts of money. It takes huge amounts of responsibility. I hope to breed my 1000th rhino by January,” says Hume.

He says at first rhinos were just animals he wanted to breed but now he has grown to love them and wants to help save them.

Hume wants members of the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) gathered in Sandton Johannesburg to allow for trading of rhino horn.

The Department of Environmental Affairs banned the trading of rhino horn in South Africa in 2009 due to increase in poaching.

Hume and other owners of rhinos want the ban lifted. They say allowing for rhino horn trade will help save rhinos, not endanger them further.

Hume says rhino horn trade will reduce market demand and eventually poaching.

Unlike poachers who root out the rhinos horns and end up killing the rhino, Hume and other private owners safely trim the horn.

Hume says this will also help keep rhinos safe because poachers have no reason to kill a rhino that has been dehorned. Rhinos can regrow their horns for up to eight times in its lifetime.

He says the money they make from trimming and selling rhinos horns will enable owners to afford taking care of rhinos.

It costs Hume R2 million to take care of his rhinos every month. This includes staff members, doctors food and other services needed by the rhinos.

Due to the increase in rhino poaching, Hume spends an additional R3 million on security for the rhinos.

This includes costs for soldiers, helicopters and bakkies needed to help keep the rhinos safe. He has had 50 of his rhinos poached so far.

“I’ve put all my life savings into rhinos,” says Hume.

He fears he might lose his investment and the rhinos eventually fall into poacher’s hand if he cannot sell his rhino horns.

A kilogram of rhino horn is estimated to be worth just under half a million Rands and one horn weighs about 4 kilograms.

Hume says he and other rhino owners need the money they would get from the sales of the horns to take care of the rhinos.

“I have five ton (about 5000kg) of rhino horn, but I can’t sell it. If I can’t sell it, in 10 years’ time I will have run out of money to take care of the rhinos. Private owners of rhinos will lose because they won’t be able to afford the costs of keeping rhinos and the poachers will win,” says Hume.

However, some animal activists at CITES have called for the South African government to not legalise rhino horn trade as it would increase demand and increase poaching.

Hume, however, has rubbished the claims saying legalising rhino horn trade would only be problem if a small amount of horns is released into the market and the few who have the horns can push up the prices.