By Emily Mellgard
With rhino poaching on the rise, efforts to eradicate the practice are getting more creative. Dyeing rhino horns pink and tinging them with non-lethal poison is one way to discourage consumers from buying them.
Demand for rhino horn increased exponentially over the past few years. The market is heavily concentrated in Asia, particularly Vietnam. Rhino poaching has leapt to keep pace with demand, and South Africa’s rhinos are among the most affected.
According to the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), between 2010 and 2012 the number of rhinos killed for their horns went from 333 to 668. So far in 2013, 216 rhinos have been poached in South Africa’s Kruger National Park alone. That is more death the past five months than in the years 2000-2008 combined. The rhino population in Mozambique, which was wiped out by large game hunters a century ago and later reintroduced to the national parks, has again been eradicated, this time with the connivance of some of Mozambique’s own rangers.
Convictions for poaching and trafficking in rhino horn are rare. But the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, California announced on May 16 the conviction of Vinh Chung “Jimmy” Kha, and Felix Khaon for, among other crimes, smuggling rhino horn into the United States with the intent of selling it to Vietnam.
In Vietnam, and other parts of Asia, powdered rhino horn is considered a cure for everything from a headache, hangover, or cold to cancer, and is also often advertised as an aphrodisiac. It holds no such properties. In fact, rhino horn is keratin, the same substance as human hair and fingernails. Despite this, rhino horn sells for between $25,000 and $40,000 per kilogram. More....