Let’s be clear about something.
Rhino horns are similar in structure to horses’ hooves, turtle beaks, and cockatoo bills. They are made of keratin – basically the same stuff that’s in your hair and fingernails. Yet, despite their being no empirical evidence to suggest otherwise, certain cultures, such as is in China with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is regarded as something of a magical elixir. But the reality is that it is no better for you than chewing on your fingernails.
But what are the facts?
There are five species of rhinoceros and, with the exception of one subspecies of African white rhino, all are in danger of being hunted to extinction for their horns. Furthermore, the scarcity of rhinos today and the corresponding intermittent availability of rhino horn only drives the price higher, and intensifies the pressure on the declining rhino populations. For people whose annual income is often far below the subsistence level, the opportunity to change one’s life by killing an animal that they don’t value is overwhelming.
Poachers will directly respond to demand. And now they are now being supplied by international criminal gangs with sophisticated equipment to track and kill rhinos. Often they use a tranquiliser gun to bring the rhino down and hack of its horn leaving the rhino to wake up and bleed to death very painfully and slowly. Let me reiterate. These poachers cause these beautiful animals to die PAINFULLY AND SLOWLY. Poachers are also often armed with guns making them very dangerous for the anti-poaching teams who put their lives on the line to protect rhinos.
I’m scared that one day, if I ever have kids (which I would willingly but you know – I kinda need a wife for that), I will have to tell them about rhinos through a picture book because they will no longer be around to see. And for what? It’s tragic that these amazing creatures are dying over a myth that the rhino horn has some therapeutic benefit. And if you have any doubts about how cruel this trade is, a google image search will highlight the cruel reality.
So what can you do?
A good place to start is Save the Rhino (https://www.savetherhino.org/) which is an organisation that looks to act before it is too late. You should also report any suspicious activity to the authorities, if you suspect someone is selling/buying rhino horn products.
Do what you can!