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Rhino horns

Wealth in Asia contributes to illegal poaching and smuggling of rhino horns

Friday, May 18, 2012 by: Fleur Hupston
Tags: rhino horns, poaching, smuggling

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(NaturalNews) Man's mismanagement of the earth, its wildlife, and environment continues along its headlong path to destruction. This is evident in many African and Asian countries, where wildlife poaching continues to increase. In South Africa alone, in the first four months of 2012, nearly 200 rhinos have been killed for their horns. Conservation efforts are often not enough to counter the problem and corruption also mars efforts to curb the destruction of these magnificent animals.

Rhinos are gentle and timid, with poor eyesight. They are easily frightened and will only attack if they feel threatened, even then they will generally snort loudly as a warning before charging. Although rhinos are protected in areas such as Assam, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and other countries, because of the high demand for the horns, the few remaining rhinos left in the wild are under constant threat from poachers.

Why the demand for rhino horns?

Rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fever, high blood pressure and/or other illnesses. In some Middle Eastern countries, the ultimate status symbol for a pubescent boy is a genuine rhino horn dagger, often presented to celebrate his transition into manhood. Other ornaments made with rhino horn are also prized in these regions. Although trading in rhino horns is outlawed by governments in Middle Eastern countries, they are still being smuggled in to meet the demand for those who refuse to accept alternatives.

The horn of the rhinoceros has been considered an aphrodisiac for men and women in Western - not Chinese - culture for around 200 years. This belief appears to stem primarily from the suggestive shape of the horn versus any chemical properties it may possess. These days, rhino horn is seldom used as an aphrodisiac.

Trophy hunting is big business in many African countries. This is undertaken both legally and illegally. In South Africa, for example, legal rhino hunting involves obtaining a permit from the Department of Environmental Affairs, thereafter the hunting trophy (horn) may be exported. Legal trophy hunting does often contribute funds for ongoing conservation efforts. Illegal trophy hunting is widespread.

How useful is Rhino horn medicinally?

Rhino horn is composed mostly of the protein keratin, which is the main component in fingernails, hair and animal hooves. Rhino horn has been proven by scientific analysis to be of no medicinal value - it's about as useful as chewing your own fingernails.

How are rhinos killed?

Syndicates at times use a helicopter to shoot or dart a rhino with a tranquillizer gun to bring the animal down and then close in, hacking the horn off and then leaving the animal to bleed to death.

Sometimes poachers are highly skilled professional hunters, who operate at ground level in a structured and highly organized manner, with logistical support in the form of vehicles and other back-up.

Less sophisticated poaching groups may consist of 4 to 6 individuals who are well armed and will infiltrate a community to get information on rhinos in the area. They will plan their kill, often shooting the animal in the knee to keep it from running away, or killing it outright. The animal is usually slaughtered and the horns are usually roughly removed with an axe or panga.

Fighting poachers

It would seem that good salaries and specialized combat training for forest guards seems to a key factor in fighting the poaching problem. Some countries are responding. For example, Assam's Elite National Security Guard is providing combat training for rangers in an attempt to curb rhino poaching in Kazirange National Park. In other countries, dedicated conservationists are tireless in their attempts to educate people, fight off poachers and save rhinos, elephants and other wild animals from extinction.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.stoprhinopoaching.com/
http://science.discovery.com
http://www.pbs.org
http://www.rhinoconservation.org

About the author:
Fleur Hupston is a professional freelance writer. She is passionate about living as natural a life as possible and reducing damage to the environment wherever possible. She spends a lot of time researching and writing about alternate medicines and healthy, green living, and manages to find the time to home-school her two daughters.

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