Publications by Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes

My latest article analyses the market factors driving the recent rhino poaching crisis – you can read it here.

For another recent economic perspective of the rhino poaching crisis and role of the CITES, please see this article (also referenced below).  For a slightly more technical overview on the subject of rhino economics, please read this presentation from the most recent IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group meeting, which took place in March 2011.

This recently published case study discusses the Southern African success story in more detail, with supporting facts and figures.

Some of my previous written work on rhino economics (in chronological order):

This policy paper was initially my B.Com Honours dissertation, and discusses the role of economics in rhino conservation and how appropriate market institutions can help to save rhinos. It tells the story of how private rhino owners in South Africa started serious breeding programmes once they were given the right incentives: enforceable property rights and market prices determined by auctions. The creation of the private rhino market has been a huge benefit to both rhino conservation and the South African economy. Tragically, these gains may be lost if market incentives are removed in the future.

This article provides a shorter summary of the issues discussed in the above paper.

For my Masters dissertation I constructed a bio-economic model of optimal rhino management, with and without harvesting and commercial sale of rhino products. The model predicted that society would end up with more rhinos being conserved under a legal trading regime than without one.

  • 1994 The World Trade in Rhino Horn: An Economics Analysis of Policy Options (with Roger Bate and Julian Morris). Unpublished.

We conducted a detailed analysis of the world trade in rhino horn for TRAFFIC International. The work was funded by WWF International and Save the Rhino International. We concluded that the rhino horn trade ban was problematic and recommended that a legal trade option be investigated.

This monograph summarizes my first five years of work on the economics of rhino conservation. Copies are available from and Amazon UK.

This paper debunks ten myths that were doing the rounds 15 years ago, and which continue to do so today. Although some of the numbers and market conditions have changed, the arguments remain relevant!

This article examines both the ivory and rhino horn trades and explains why a trade ban approach is problematic in both cases.

Four case studies (rhinos, elephants, tigers and bears) reveal some serious shortcomings of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The book is available from Amazon UK and

This short article discusses the demand for rhino horn and questions whether it is likely to change in the future.

This article discusses the ongoing effect of CITES on the rhino horn market and the consequences for rhino conservation in 2011.


In addition to my work on rhinos, I have also published some work on tiger conservation. This is relevant, as there are many parallels between the tiger and rhino issues.

This paper examines how to use market incentives to allow the tiger a better chance to survive in the wild.

  • 2010 Tigers, Economics and the Regulation of Trade. In Tigers of the World, Second Edition: The Science, Politics and Conservation of Panthera tigris. Academic Press, pp. 477-492.

Tigers of the World is currently the world’s leading scientific text on tiger conservation, and my chapter examines economic aspects of tiger conservation, including the controversial issue of tiger farming.

Copies available from Elsevier and Amazon.

This online paper examines the tiger farming debate in detail, and debunks some common myths. In particular, it shows why tiger farming does not necessarily pose a threat to wild tiger populations, and may actually even help to ease poaching pressure under certain conditions.