The market for rhino horn is moving from “traditional” medicine to “investment value” as jewellery and other processed artefacts in the art and antiques market, according to wildlife trade monitors TRAFFIC.
At current rates of loss to poaching, rhino species will be extinct within our lifetimes. Measures to curb the onslaught has led to rhino horn being worked to disguise it as jewellery and powder, and exported illegally to the far east.
The tendency to retain the stereotype of the poor local poacher struggling to feed his family is far from the reality in which high value products see well-organised criminal syndicates; who are also involved in other unsavoury activities. Given that the illegal wildlife industry is estimated to be worth US$23 billion.
South Africa recently undermined efforts to reduce demand by lifting its ban on the domestic rhino horn trade. Whilst, Rhino horn can be harvested without having to kill the animal, and many South African farms have stockpiles, the problem is the high value of the horn, fetching US$65,000 per kg on the Asian black market.
Jason Gilchrist, Ecologist at Edinburgh University says it should have no value.
Demand can be reduced, by ending all legal trade and Pangolins, a group of nocturnal, solitary African and Asian scaly mammals, are considered to be one of the most heavily trafficked wild mammals in the world. They are hunted and traded for their meat, scales, and other body parts, and used as traditional medicines in parts of Africa and Asia. Fresh scales are never used, but dried scales are roasted, ashed, cooked in oil, butter, vinegar, boy’s urine, or roasted with earth or oyster-shells, to cure a variety of ills. Amongst these are excessive nervousness and hysterical crying in children, women possessed by devils and ogres, malarial fever and deafness. Pangolin by broadening awareness in all of Asia and the world that rhino horn has no medicinal value. Rhino horn is useless – except to the rhino.
Endgame – “Biodiversity is a global good, and when a species is gone, it is gone forever. The quagga, Tasmanian tiger, passenger pigeon, great auk, dodo, giant tortoises and giant birds – all hunted to extinction. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute to ensuring the rhino does not go the same way. At its simplest, do not support the illegal wildlife trade: do not buy, report suspicions, and spread the word that ownership of rhino horn, elephant ivory, pangolin scales, and other illicit wildlife products is unacceptable.”