Posts Tagged With: Hong Kong

The History of Rhino Poaching

To think an animal’s body part is worth its weight in gold is mind-blowing to say the least. So how did this lucrative practice begin? Who decided a rhinoceros horn is the key to solving all ailments?

17th century rhino horn cups

17th century Chinese cups carved from rhino horn

In Greek mythology, rhino horns were said to possess the ability to purify water. The Persians from the 5th century BC used carved vessels from horn to detect poisoned liquids. This belief stuck and existed well into the 18th and 19th centuries among European royalty.

Between  100 BC and 200 AD during the Ming and Ching dynasties, the Chinese thought the same. They used the horn in carvings of plates, bowls and cups. The cups being especially prized to detect alkaloid poisoning, something that was treacherously common at the time.

dagger

Traditional Yemen dagger

Reports of Yemens’ use of the horn dates back to the 8th century. Although their fondness of horn is preferred in decorative use as opposed to medicinal. It is fashioned into ceremonial dagger handles known as jambiyas . This is a status symbol for young men. It epitomizes manhood. The quality of the horn was important because it possesses a translucent quality, that only improves with age.

The use of the horn for medicinal purposes was recorded as early as 1597, in the Chinese “Pen Ts’ao Kang Mu”.  In it there are mentions such as “the best horn is from a freshly killed male” and “pregnant women should not take horn as it will kill the foetus”. It also lists the many uses of horn ranging from stopping nightmares and curing possessions to curing headaches and dissolving phlegm.

rhino horn medicine

Chinese “medicine” made from horn

In earlier time it was not just the horn, but also blood, and urine used for medicine. This was a commonality of the Chinese, Burmese, Thai, and Nepalis.

In the early 1980s, it was even used as an aphrodisiac by the people of India. This myth probably stems from the fact that breeding pairs stay together for two to three days, and sometimes even weeks. Mating takes place several times a day and lasts for an hour or more at a time.

rhinos mating 2The earliest reports of horn trade (in addition to tortoise shell and ivory) were reported as leaving ancient East Africa for Arabia in 50 AD.

Throughout the history of trade, various countries have been involved: Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Yemen, China, Hong Kong, Sumatra, Singapore, Thailand, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa are the most prominent. Various efforts have been made in these countries to legalize and/or ban the trade as well.

What is the most interesting point in the history of the horn trade is that during times horn could be legally traded, illegal trade still flourished.

Thirty species of rhino once roamed the planet. Now  thousands of years later, there remain just five. Human greed, consumption and ignorance have cost the rhino. They are teetering on the brink of extinction. Will history teach us nothing?

rhino cave painting

Chauvet cave, France- rhino cave painting dating back 30,000 BP (before present time recordings).

Information obtained from TRAFFIC and Richard Ellis: Poaching for Traditional Chinese Medicine

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What to do with all that ivory and horn…

In light of the global demise of elephants and rhinos, many countries have made a symbolic gesture of commitment by destroying their ivory stockpiles.

China, the United States, Kenya, France, the Philippines, Gabon and Hong Kong have all taken part.

While some see this as a celebratory gesture, it is contested by others.

Black rhinoceros and Africa elephant, Africa

photo: John Downer/WWF

The price tag for a kilo of ivory on the black market is worth over $1800 usd , which makes your average elephant worth about $18,000. While a kilo of rhino horn can fetch $65,000 usd, making the average rhino worth $130,000.

Imagine how much one country’s stockpile may be worth? When the US destroyed it’s 6 ton stockpile, it was like decimating approximately $9,800,000 usd. Could that money have been sold to China, raising money for conservation? Or would it have simply fueled demand, bringing a quicker end to our imperiled elephants?

To destroy:

*Ivory and horn left intact has the good chance of finding its way back onto the market, perpetuating the demand and adding to the poaching.
*It sends a powerful statement to the world that it is NOT a commodity. There is no worth.
*It also sends the message that the country will not tolerate the trade.
*To store ivory and horn, it is a security burden to most countries.

ivory crushed in denver by steel

Ivory destroyed by a steel rock crusher in Denver, Colorado. photo: Alex Hofford

To keep:

*Saving horns and ivory allows records to be kept on genetics, both for historical purposes as well as for DNA evidence used in court cases.
*If legalization occurs, it can be sold to raise money for conservation.
*It can be used to train wildlife sniffer dogs in airports to help control trafficking.
*In general, it is argued destruction of ivory makes it more scarce, spiking the demand

afp rhino horn stockpile

It’s no secret South Africa is pushing for legal trade in rhino horn. Their current stockpile stands at over 18 tons. photo” AFP

 

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March On..

4 October 2014

Saturday is THE day. I truly hope you will ALL be marching. It requires a small amount of time and effort, but worth every second and ounce. We owe this to our planet, our future, our animals.

Times, cities, and exact locations are available at march4elephantsandrhinos.org

          “There are two ways of spreading light…to be the candle or be the mirror that reflect it.”

mom and baby white in grass

“The revolution is not the apple that falls when it’s ripe, you have to make it fall”

elephant with baby

 “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it, is really cooperating with it.”

global march NOW

 

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From Tusks to Trinkets

Look at your watch. An elephant was just slaughtered for his tusks. In 15 minutes, another one will die. This is the current rate of poaching, this IS the bleak reality. THIS is why the world is starting to pay attention.

15 min

IVORY STOCKPILES

Sept 9, 2013: USA announces it will be destroying its 6-ton stockpile of illegal ivory it has collected over the last 25 years.

June 21, 2013: Philippines destroyed it’s 5-ton stockpile of elephant ivory.

2011: Kenya burned 5-tons, and another 12-tons in 1989.

1992: Zambia burned 9.5 tons.

Who’s next?  It’s a trend that needs to continue. If the elephants are to be saved, a strong message has to be sent to would-be poachers, collectors, traders….WE WILL NOT TOLERATE KILLING OF OUR WILDLIFE.

Is it too much to hope for Hong Kong, Thailand, and China to do the same?

How about South Africa? Or Tanzania?

Tanzania is home to the largest ivory stockpile in the world, and so far shows no intention of giving up its collection.  In Feb 2013, National Geographic visited the warehouse where the $50 million ivory is stored. The government argues it could be sold to assist conservation efforts and bring money to what is one of the poorest nations. Yet, they spend nearly $75,000 a year to secure it.

Destroying the stockpile would remove that cost, eliminate opportunity for corruption and theft, as well as showing a commitment to the trade ban.

IVORY DESTRUCTION

Ivory is used to make trinkets, carvings; frivolous things. (Trading LIFE for a THING…a terrible habit of humanity today.) Part of the desire for it, is it’s strength.

It is precisely this durability that makes it difficult to destroy. Burning it only works if it is at a high temperature for a long period of time; otherwise it is only charred, while the inside is left intact. In fact, this is exactly how sellers of the ivory used to proof it was the real thing by passing a lighter or match over it, demonstrating it wouldn’t burn.

This means some of the tusks that were previously burned could have been recovered and made it back into the black market.

crushing ivory

Even crushing it is difficult. After much fanfare and a public display including a road roller in the Philippines, it was discovered they still needed to hammer the fragments with a back-hoe scoop, then incinerate them in an animal crematorium.

Let’s face it, tusks were meant for elephants. Not as necklaces or piano keys, and certainly unfathomable to think about how to destroy them.

To help bring awareness to the elephants, please donate if you can to the Times Square Billboard. The Elephant in Times Square. Let’s shout it to the rooftops, and tell the world what is happening to our majestic elephants.

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