By Cindy Wockner
IN SOME places, people believe rhino horn can help ease a hangover, detoxify the body and even cure cancer. And, if you believe the hype, it also cures impotence and enhances sexual performance. In other places, ivory, derived from elephant tusks, is a sign of affluence and is used in jewellery and ornaments to show wealth and status.
Demand for both rhino horn and elephant ivory, especially in Asia, is behind what has been a dreadful year for Africa's rhinos and elephants, both of which were slaughtered in almost record numbers last year.
The figures are disgusting.
Officially, by the middle of December, 618 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa, the home of most of the world's rhinos. Unofficially the figure is probably closer to 700.
The statistics show the number of rhinos killed each year is steadily going up. In 2011, it was 448.
And the situation is not much better for elephants.
According to Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring body, last year was among the worst on record for worldwide ivory smuggling, which is running rampant.
And the disgraceful part of this is the reasons for the slaughter are related to affluence, arrogance and misguided beliefs in the unproven medicinal properties of things such as rhino horn.
And because so much money is involved, the trade is, of course, run by criminal gangs.
There is nothing more magical than seeing one of these big animals in the wild. Anyone who has been on a safari will tell you that. More....