Will rhinos soon roam no more?
On average, three rhinos a day are being killed in South Africa – all because of a lie…
Rhinos are hunted down thanks to the mistaken belief that their horns possess properties that detoxify the body and can therefore cure anything from a hangover to serious illnesses such as cancer. And if there was evidence to support such beliefs – you may as well chew your fingernails!
For the last two years, The Intrepid Foundation has brought support to TRAFFIC and WWF’s advertising campaign, encouraging Vietnamese citizens to stop buying rhino horn. Very sadly, since the first time we shared this story, in June 2013, over 1000 more rhinos have been killed, in South Africa alone.
The print advertisements used in Vietnam with the campaign, depict a rhino with human hands or feet in place of its horn. They provide a novel and intriguing way to communicate that rhino horn is mostly keratin, the same substance that makes up your finger nails and toe nails!
“Rhino horn is largely made of keratin and will do nothing to treat cancer or help one’s sexual prowess. There are traditional medicines that have proven to be effective for treating a variety of ailments and symptoms and have saved millions of lives. Rhino horn is not one of them,” said TRAFFIC’s Greater Mekong Programme Coordinator, Dr Naomi Doak. “Widespread lies, myths and rumours are fuelling demand and use of rhino horn.”
Consumer research commissioned by TRAFFIC in Vietnam in 2013 found that:
- The main users of rhino horn tend to be men over the age of 40.
- The buyers of rhino horn are often women in their 50s who are supplying their families.
- The most popular perceived benefit of rhino horn use and purchase is emotional; this symbol of wealth and power is also strongly associated with success and therefore asserts one’s social standing. Those buying rhino horn believe that owning rhino horn, as well as being able to purchase it for others, reaffirms their social status.
Rhino horn consumers are currently seen as influential people within Vietnamese society. Educated, successful and powerful individuals are the main market for the horns that come all the way from Africa to satisfy the high local demand. Many rhino horn consumers are aware that animals are killed so they can have a rhino horn. But they feel very disconnected from this and so do not see themselves as the catalysts for the current rhino poaching crisis. Others feel that even if the species were to be lost forever, they personally will not be effected and so do not care.
Rhinos once roamed the plains of Africa in their hundreds of thousands. They have been brought back from the brink of extinction before, but sadly once again they are hanging by a thread. These magnificent animals are one of the ‘Big 5′ animals popular on African safaris. They contribute to economic growth and sustainable development through the tourism industry, which creates job opportunities and provides tangible benefits to the local communities that live alongside them. In almost all rhino conservation areas, there are other valuable plants and animals. By protecting rhinos, other species such as elephant, buffalo, predators and small game are also conserved.
In a recent report prepared by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and INTERPOL, they found that global environmental crime, possibly worth more than $200 billion annually, is helping finance criminal, militia and terrorist groups and threatening the security and sustainable development of many nations, notably in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report highlighted poaching across many species and noted:
- 94 per cent of rhino poaching takes place in Zimbabwe and South Africa, which have the largest remaining populations.
- Rhino horn poached in 2013 was valued at around US$63 to US$192 million.
- The number of elephants killed in Africa annually is in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 elephants per year out of a population of 420,000 to 650,000.
- The illegal trade in great apes such as chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans is widespread.
Clearly the magnitude and nature of the illegal trade in wildlife has been recognised and some successes have been scored, but the scale and coordination of efforts to tackle environmental crime must be substantially increased and widened.
You can help support TRAFFIC’s rhino campaign through The Intrepid Foundation. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$400,000 in each financial year and a maximum of AU$5,000 per donor in each financial year.
Photo – White rhino at Lake Nakuru, Kenya.