South Africa just set a new record, and unfortunately it means more devastating news for rhinos. If we don’t act quickly, then we can start picturing a world without rhinos in the near future because we’re senselessly killing them off.
1,020 Rhinos Have Been Poached in South Africa
As reported in BBC, South Africa’s rhinos are suffering. Just this year, 1,020 rhinos have been killed by poachers. This number alarms conservationists because it’s an undeniable reminder of how current conservation efforts are failing rhinos. Last year, 1,004 rhinos had been poached in South Africa.
South Africa, the country with the largest number of rhinos, has taken hits year after year, and the rhino death toll continues to rise year after year. Conservationists fear that the number of rhino deaths could beat the number of rhino births in the next four years, an occurrence that this critically endangered species can’t afford. Most of the rhino deaths have occurred in Kruger National Park. The park stretches over 7,500 sq miles, and sits in Skukuza, South Africa.
Conservationists don’t want 2015 to set a new record, so the rush is on to protect rhinos. The country has started to move the animals to nearby countries with “safety zones.” The designated zones are equipped with guards with guns, helicopters and dogs. The national army has also been sent to poaching hotspots, like Mozambique.
Rhino Horns Hold the Golden Cure
Sadly, all of these efforts are probably not enough. Like poaching elephants for their tusks, poaching rhinos for their horns is part of a multi-billion dollar business run by a web of hardcore criminals. Illegal rhino horns are more valuable than gold to many around the globe, and they’ll go to great lengths for rhino horns, which are mostly protein keratin common in hair, fingernails and hooves.
PBS explains that in Yemen, boys are gifted daggers with rhino horn handles adorned in jewels as symbols of their manhood, their devotion to Islam and to protect themselves. In China, rhino horns have a long history of being used in ceremonies and adorning everyday items, including buttons, belt buckles, paperweights and other items.
The demand for rhino horn is highest for things that money and gold can’t buy: health. Horns are stars in Asian traditional medicine, particularly China and Vietnam. The Atlantic reports that the Vietnamese are willing to shell out $300,000 for a piece of rhino to cure hangovers, fevers, liver issues and, most recently, cancers. Around the mid-2000s a Vietnamese politician was rumored to have cured his cancer with ground-up rhino horn. Vietnam has seen a surge of unprecedented wealth, but cancer care and treatment hasn’t advanced at the same rate. Rhino horns’ rumored cancer curing ability mean that the elite are willing to spend.
While believers cite studies — like one from Chinese University in Hong Kong where large doses of rhino horn extract slightly reduced fevers in rats — the global scientific community has yet to prove that rhino horns have any healing properties. Many experts agree that chewing fingernails or taking an aspirin would have the same effects.
What Rhino Horns Are Really Good For
Meanwhile, we are wiping rhinos off the face of the earth. If the poaching continues at its current rate, rhinos could be extinct in the next 20 years and all for faux medicine and trinkets.
Here’s what rhino horns are really good for: rhinos need their horns to help them dig for food, to protect their young, to defend their territory and to charge when threatened. Some callous poachers won’t even kill them. Instead, they’ll tranquillize them and cut the horns off with a chainsaw, so the poor rhino has to wake up and experience the trauma of missing its horn before bleeding to death.
This needs to end. To get involved and learn what you can do to save the rhinos, Save the Rhinos has excellent resources.