The Black Rhino

The Black RhinoSierra Cook and Trisha Bailey, former MBA students at Darden School of Business, discuss the development of their case, The Black Rhino. The case development process was supervised by Darden professors Ed Freeman and Jared Harris, and assisted by Jenny Mead, Senior Researcher at Darden. 

The case focuses on John Hume, a veteran game farmer and founder of the Mauricedale Game Ranch in South Africa who was deeply troubled by the record upsurge in black rhino poaching incidents and black-market horn thefts in 2010 and 2011. While the endangered black rhino represented only one segment of Mauricedale's hunting and farming businesses in 2011, the animal's survival was an important component of the ranch’s and industry's growth potential in the future. As both a businessman and a rhino advocate, John Hume was contemplating an innovative idea that might help stop the decline of the black rhino: the creation of a market for legalised black rhino hunting. As he pondered the possibilities and alternatives to determine what his next move should be, Hume had several questions on his mind: Was the legalisation of the international sale and trade of rhino horns a viable solution? Was it Hume's responsibility to save the black rhino, and was the animal a good investment?

Getting started

We were taking a ‘Creative Capitalism’ course as part of our MBA at Darden and were looking for subject matter that would fit nicely into this area. We had read an article about hunting and Africa, and wanted to dig more into this issue. When writing the case we divided our efforts. Trisha focused on researching the South African angle. Sierra focused on hunting and the background of black rhinos. A Darden classmate with an interest in guns, hunting and related conservation issues helped us establish contact with Tony Makris, the hunting expert in the case.

Writing challenges

Black RhinoThe subject matter is so rich that it was a challenge to stay focused and distill exactly the facts and scenarios we wanted to highlight. Working in a team of two with the assistance of advisors and editors helped us prioritise which information was vital or important to establishing context, and which information was unnecessary.

The other difficulty we faced, particularly Sierra, was the emotional element. Prior to writing the case she was anti-hunting, but having learnt about hunting’s role in sustainable environments and population management during the case research process her viewpoint changed. In addition, the terrible waste of poaching a huge animal for only a few pounds of horn while the meat is left to rot was upsetting, especially when the resources cited or used graphic pictures. A small comfort was that the act of writing the case could hopefully, in some minor way, help to raise the profile and plight of the Black Rhino and conservation-minded individuals like John Hume.

Teaching objectives

The Black Rhino case can be used by other organisations and universities to:
  1. Identify stakeholders and define the rights, responsibilities, obligations, values, and needs of each.
  2. Present tensions between a thriving industry that some consider unethical and the benefits of this industry to the environment and society at large.
  3. Increase students’ awareness of creative-capitalist solutions to societal problems.
The case draws out the elements of Creative Capitalism and Stakeholder Theory in a way that presents many sides of the issue in order to create dialogue and debate. It highlights an issue that has no 'easy fix' and challenges students to help solve it. Students are engaged in class by the polarizing and contradictory nature of hunting; the 'unfair' illegalisation of the rhino horn trade; the tragic heroism of William Hume; the hope that Africa can improve itself and generally the question of humanity’s priority over either the environment or other animals.

Case details

Trisha Bailey, Sierra Cook, Jared D Harris, R Edward Freeman and Jenny Mead
Darden Business Publishing
Ref UVA-E-0363
Also available:
Teaching note

Ref UVA-E-0363TN

About the authors

Trisha Bailey was a Darden School of Business MBA student in 2011 and is now Associate Marketing Manager at Frito Lay.

Sierra Cook was a Darden School of Business MBA student in 2011 and is now Associate Brand Manager, Premium Lights Brand Team at Anheuser-Busch.

Jared D Harris is Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Darden School of Business, USA.

R Edward Freeman is Elis and Signe Olsson Professor of Business Administration; Academic Director, Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics at Darden School of Business, USA.

Jenny Mead is a Senior Researcher at Darden School of Business, USA. e

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