WHEE! A jaunt to Swaziland (or eSwatini, as it's now called). The reason is a get-together tomorrow of conservationists and business people who are determined to end the naive northern hemisphere nonsense that is driving the rhino to extinction.
Rhino have now passed the tipping point. More are being poached today than are being born. Two sub-species have already gone extinct, the Western Black Rhino (in 2008) and the Northern White Rhino, this year.
It's caused by the illegal rhino horn trade. You couldn't imagine anything more inert and intrinsically valueless than rhino horn. It's the equivalent of toenail clippings. But in the Far East it has a mystical, medicinal, cultural and decorative value.
Forty-one years ago, with the best intentions, Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) banned international trade in rhino horn. But it hasn't worked. Rising prosperity in countries like China and Vietnam has increased demand exponentially. Rhino horn is now more valuable than gold.
The illegal trade now funds an epidemic of poaching. Well over 1 000 game rangers across Africa have been killed trying to protect rhino and elephant from poachers.
It's a tragic and nonsensical situation, a losing battle. But the conservationists of southern Africa – the people who actually care for rhino day in, day out – have got together with the business community to do something about it. They want the Cites ban reversed. Natural attrition among rhino, perhaps augmented by harvested horn (like toenail clippings) from private sector operators, can meet the demand without a single rhino being killed.
Tomorrow's conference is likely to set out the framework for a controlled and transparent legal trade in rhino horn and will be followed by conferences in Pretoria and Maputo (Mozambique). The march has begun.
TOMORROW'S gathering will be at Mlilwane, a delightful private game reserve outside Mbabane, owned by Ted Reilly, who is also head honcho of conservation in eSwatini (let's get used to that name) and a colourful character.
In the early days, before they'd learned to use nets in game capture, his method was to launch himself from a speeding jeep to crashtackle a galloping wildebeest or zebra or whatever. I don't think he ever crashtackled a rhino, but he certainly would have made a useful rugby player.
Ted will be one of the main speakers. This idea of legalising the rhino horn trade at first sounds counter-intuitive. You have to get your head round it. But it's the only answer. Not a single conservationist that I know – and that included the late Ian Player – is against it. Nuff said.
Next is to get the business leaders to produce a workable framework. Then persuade the Cites member states.
RUMOUR has it that the Scots – riding high in rugby at the moment – are planning to avenge their debacle at the hands of Hennie Muller's Boks at Murrayfield long ago in 1951. They will have been encouraged by our lack-lustre display against France last weekend.
But did they watch our first half against the All Blacks? Our first half against England? Some fine day the Boks are going to play two great halves. Then pas op!
As they say in the pubs around Edinburgh: "Hier kom 'n ding, laddie!"
Hoot mon! 'Erewego, 'erewego, 'erewego!
WHAT'S furry, has whiskers and chases outlaws?
A posse cat.
At 18 our convictions are hills from which we look; at 45 they are caves in which we hide.