Billionaire Rupert Says Dutch Lottery Refunded for Rhino Failure

South African billionaire Johann Rupert, chairman of the Peace Parks Foundation, said the conservation group has returned about $2 million in funding from the Dutch Postcode Lottery after a method it backed to combat rhino poaching failed.

Founded by Rupert’s father, Anton, to establish trans-border conservation areas, the group benefited from a 14.4 million euro ($18.6 million) grant to protect rhinos from the lottery’s Dream Fund, according to the PPF website. The group has researched anti-poaching methods including the injection of toxins and dye into rhino horns.

“We were naive and over enthusiastic in our belief that rhino horn infusion could help save the rhino,” Rupert said in an e-mailed statement. “When we discovered that it did not work as effectively as was initially claimed and what we believed, we immediately informed the Dutch Postcode Lottery.”

The PPF wasn’t aware it was about to be awarded funds by the lottery, partially to fund that project, he said.

South Africa, home to most of the world’s rhinos, plans to relocate some of the animals from the Kruger National Park. This year 638 rhinos have been poached in the country, compared with a record 1,004 in all of last year. Demand for rhino horns has climbed in Asian nations because of a false belief that they can cure diseases such as cancer.

“After the decision to stop the rhino horn infusion project we decided to return all funds related to any chemical alteration and rhino horn infusion to the Dutch Postcode Lottery,” amounting to 22 million rand, Rupert said.

Rupert denied a report that he asked Carte Blanche, a Johannesburg-based investigative television program, to refrain from airing a segment about the donation. “We merely requested a week’s delay to present a fair and balanced story,” he said.

Rupert, South Africa’s richest man, has a net worth of $8.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He controls the world’s largest jewelry maker, Cie. Financiere Richemont, through a family trust.

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