The number of African rhinos poached in 2015 set a new record, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Some 1,338 were killed, which is the highest level since the current poaching crisis began in 2008. Since that time, nearly 6,000 African rhinos have been killed.
Extensive poaching for the illegal trade in rhino horn mostly in Asia continues to undermine efforts to conserve rhinos that have been ongoing over the past 20 years.
Rhino horn has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. It has been used to treat a wide range of disorders but modern analysis indicates that it doesn’t serve any medicinal purpose whatsoever. A prevalent notion in Western media that rhino horn is used as an aphrodisiac apparently has little basis in fact, but in some Asian countries, people are starting to believe this notion based on the Western rumors. In Vietnam, rhino horn is sought after for emotional rather than medicinal benefits and ownership of the illicit commodity is mostly for social status.
There continues to be increased law enforcement efforts and expenditures in Africa to try to stem the tide in rhino poaching. Rangers risk their lives daily but better tools and technology are needed. More importantly, customs officers and police in consumer countries need to be equally committed to ending the illegal trade in rhino horn.
Compared to the similar problem with elephant ivory – which is at least a beautiful and functional material – the trade in rhino horn is a completely pointless and infuriating practice. That the remaining populations of these remarkable animals are under constant threat for no good reason whatsoever is truly shameful.
Record year for rhino poaching in Africa
Photo, posted August 17, 2013, courtesy of Yu-Chan Chen via Flickr.
‘Bad Year for Rhinos’ from Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.