Rhino Poaching FAQs
Q: Why are rhinos being poached?
A: Rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine. It is ground into a fine powder or manufactured into tablets to treat a number of illnesses such as nosebleeds, strokes, convulsions, and fevers. Crime syndicates all over Asia poach the rhinos and can sell the horn on the black market for up to $60,000 a kilo, making it extremely profitable. An average rhino horn weighs 10- 14lbs/4.5 - 6.3 kilos, giving it roughly a $340,000 street value.
Q: Where is the supply of Rhino horn coming from?
A: Most of the horns are coming out of Southern Africa, which has the densest population of rhino. In 2012, South Africa alone lost 668 rhinos due to poaching. That’s almost 30 times more than rhinos poached in the 1990’s. Zimbabwe has also been badly affected, and rhino populations in other countries such as Kenya, Nepal, and India, are also being targeted.
Q: How many Rhino species is their today?
A: There are five different species of rhino, each living in different areas. 1. The White Rhino - Found in five African countries: South Africa, Namibia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. 2. The Black Rhino - Found in Southern and Western Africa. 3. The Indian Rhino - Found in small populations due to declining numbers, in North-East India and Nepal. 4. The Javan Rhino - This is the rarest of mammals, not just in the rhino family, but across the animal kingdom. They could once be found across Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and into Thailand. Now they are found in only two small areas. Cat Tien national park in Vietnam holds fourteen, and only 30 more live in the Ujung Kulon national park found on the western tip of the island Java. 5. The Sumatran Rhino - This Rhino is also endangered and once roamed large areas of Malaysia. Now they are confined to small areas in Burma, Bangladesh, and eastern India.
Q: Who is poaching the rhinos?
A: There are two different types of poachers; subsistence poachers and professional poachers. Subsistence poachers are usually from poor communities driven by hunger and poverty. Usually on foot, they will shoot rhinos on site and remove the horns very crudely. Professional poachers are highly organized and very well funded (Asian syndicates) using well structured operations and high technology methods such as: tranquilizers, veterinary drugs, helicopters, night vision scopes, and high caliber weapons.
Q: Who is the bigger problem? Subsistence poachers or professionals?
A: Professional poachers. The reason is they are driven by a desire for financial gain and sheer greed. Rhino horn on the black market today is worth $50,000 - $65,000 per kilo. In return, making it the most valued item on the black market (worth more than cocaine and heroin).
Q: What species of rhino are being poached most?
A: Black Rhinos. The reason is that both horns on a Black Rhino are roughly the same size. Where as a White Rhino has the large front horn, and second horn a quarter of the size, making the black rhino more profitable per kill. Secondly, Black Rhinos are more solitary than White Rhinos; this means it is more simple to isolate a Black Rhino to poach.
Q: What are Rhino horns made of?
A: Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same material making human fingernails. Keratin is a family of fibrous structural proteins that clump together on the dermas (outside skin layer) on the rhino’s snout, forming a horn.
Q: How long does it take for a rhino horn to grow back?
A: If a Rhino is dehorned without cutting into the skull, it can grow back to almost full size after three years. However, if the rhinos skull is cut into while being dehorned, it could complicate or completely compromise the re-growth of the horn.
Q: Would legalizing the sale of rhino horn satisfy the demand and yet reduce poaching?
A: It is not believed so. The problem starts with the value of a rhino horn on today’s black market. It would take a large amount of horns to flood the market and sufficiently drop the prices enough to put poachers off. Legalizing the trade could also provide an opportunity for the laundering of illegally acquired horn, and stockpiles held in private hands. The legal “one-off sales” of ivory that have been allowed from time to time, have never been shown to reduce poaching pressure on elephants. It is believed to of had quite the opposite effect.
Q: Why not dehorn rhinos?
A: The reason you might want to dehorn a rhino is to protect them from the threat of poachers, on the assumption that a rhino with no horn is no longer a target. With rhino horn reaching such high prices, it is still worth poachers targeting dehorned rhinos with a little bit of horn left. Dehorning would need to be done at least once a year to prove effective, and with wild rhinos it would be difficult, expensive, and dangerous to both rhinos and operators. Rhinos also have their horns for a reason, to protect their young and defense. If we removed the horns, the rhinos may not be as well equipped to survive.
Q: Where can I go to help join the fight against Rhino poaching?