Posts Tagged With: Horn

Bright spots in a Dark year

This  was a tough year for rhinos. No doubt about it. The poachings have amounted to over 1100 deaths in 2014. Outrage, grief and frustration weigh on the hearts of all of us, but there is no room for doubt or defeat. For behind the headlines of “another rhino poached”, lie seeds of hope and strength.

*Awareness groups in Vietnam, like ENV (Education for Nature Vietnam), WildAct and WildAid have launched campaigns to raise awareness and change attitudes in Vietnam about rhino horn use.

*The Javan rhino population has increased.

javan rhino

Javan rhino via International Rhino Foundation










*The US (the second largest ivory market in the world) announced a ban on commercial ivory.

*Rhinos Without Borders and And Beyond have aided in the translocation of rhinos into safer, intensive protection zones.

*Interpol is getting involved with seeking out the capture of rhino poachers, recognizing the importance of stopping poaching on a global, criminal level.

*Skukuza has increased the amount of poaching case prosecutions.

skuzuza court

38 poaching suspects appeared in just one day in this Skukuza courtroom











*Namibia has devoted a specialist military army to battle poaching in 2015

*The first ever World Youth Rhino Summit was convened, educating and empowering youth throughout multiple countries to be the future leaders in conservation efforts for rhinos.

*Protected areas in Sumatra have not seen any poaching incidents since 2006.

*There have been multiple arrests of poaching kingpins and syndicates; from a kingpin in Tanzania to Kwazu-natal to a syndicate in Czech-Republic.

*The death of Karanja, a 44-year-old black rhino with an intact horn, in the Masai Mara was of natural causes, not poaching.

*Kenya claims a 50% reduction in rhino poaching.

*The first birth of a new rhino at Imire in Zimbabwe, since their 2007 poaching tragedy

Shanu and babe

Mom and baby at Imire.










With combined efforts, Fight for Rhinos is gearing up for 2015 to be a year of change. Together with Helping Rhinos, RPA, WildAct and you we can make a difference. “Endelea Kupigana” (Keep fighting)!





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Words of Encouragement to our Rangers at Christmas time

rhino with ranger

Photo: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy


“Never give up,  for that is just the place and time, that the tide will turn” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe


game rangers association


“If you’re going through hell, then keep going”   ~ Winston Churchill


Bloodhound and ranger in Virunga Nat. Park.

Bloodhound and ranger in Virunga Nat. Park.


Courage does not always  roar, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,

“I will try again tomorrow.”  ~ Mary Ann Radmache



Nicky and caretaker



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Last Days for Rhinos and Elephants

This extraordinary video puts the killing of our elephants and rhinos into perspective. Ultimately it all starts or stops with YOU as the consumer. Please watch and share.

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Aspirin, Keratin or Herbs: Better than Horn

In attempts to reduce demand for rhino horn, researchers and conservationists have tried various methods of replacement; the thought being similar substitutions would give our rhinos a break.

In the early 1990s, conservationists encouraged use of Saiga antelope horn as an alternative. At the time their numbers were in the millions, overpopulating some areas. But the plan backfired, and sadly the animals declined to fewer than 30,000 due to rampant poaching. Ultimately the antelope wound up on the same endangered species list as the rhino.

Saiga antelope by: Darwin Initiative

Saiga antelope by: Darwin Initiative

The horns of Buffalo, Yak and other bovine have also been used as options to rhino, both knowing and unknowingly. (As the number of rhino plummet, more counterfeit product are flooding the market.)

In the search for a more ethical replacement, there have been powders and elixirs  advertised as “rhino horn alternatives”most of which essentially contain keratin (the main ingredient in rhino horn).

One recent group has a product they’ve touted as “biologically identical material” made of New Zealand sheep wool. Claiming health benefits from the concoction, the Vietnamese-Americans hope was to curb poaching and benefit rangers from the sale of their product. Rhinoceros Horn alternative

In a 2007 study listed by CITES, several herbs were tested on the same ailments rhino horn is used to treat. The following tables show there was a positive effect of the herbs on the listed ailments.

Table 12: Distinct traditional attributes of rhino horn identified by TCM doctors, Bell and  Simmonds (2007)

Table 12: Distinct traditional attributes of rhino horn identified by TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctors, Bell and
Simmonds (2007)

Potential substitute herbs  from TCM literature with similar properties

Potential substitute herbs from TCM literature with similar properties

Options with both Eastern medicine (use of herbs) and Western medicine (as simple as aspirin) exist. With such viable proven remedies, there simply is no “medicinal” need for rhino horn.  Through educational campaigns, TCM users are being shown these alternatives are better than the decimation of a species. Their choices will directly effect the outcome of our fight for rhinos.

One of the signs in the education campaign in China.

One of the signs in the education campaign in China.




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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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Attention Rhino Horn Users!

Each day at  least three rhino die for two reasons:
1. the Asian belief that horn cures medical ailments
2. as a status symbol in Vietnamese high society.

But, attention rhino horn users: at least 80% of the horn you purchase is fake, according to an Oxpeckers report.

Karl Ammann from Natural History Magazine stated “probably up to 90% of end consumers (of rhino horn)  would unknowingly purchase products made of water buffalo or other bovine horn.”

fake horn in jewelry shop in laos via karl ammann

A jewlery shop in Laos sells a fake rhino horn. Via: Karl Ammann

Horn is a hard commodity to come by. Rhino numbers are low, poaching risk is high. So horn smugglers have learned to make the money without the trouble.

Initially fake horns were made with an easily identifiable mould, made from buffalo horn , wood, or even  industrial plastic. But according to a report presented to CITES, the fake horns are now made with top quality resins and look so authentic that they are almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing.

As rhino numbers decline, and demand increases, the market will likely be saturated with faux horn, as criminals cash in on the diminishing rhinos. Unless users wake up and stop sniffing plastic and consuming wood and resin.

Fake rhino horns in museum

  These faux rhino horns fooled thieves , as they were stolen from the Natural History Museum at Tring, in Hertfordshire.






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Altering the Horn to Save the Rhino

The life and death of today’s rhino revolves around its horn. Being hunted to the brink of extinction for their horns, conservationists and scientists are trying to find ways to use the horn to save them.

Rhino Horn Facts:
1. It is made of compressed keratin, much like horse hooves, cockatoo bills, fingernails, etc.
2. Rhino horns grow throughout their lifetime, at a rate of 1-3 inches per year
3. Baby rhinos are born without horns.
4. There is no scientific evidence to support rhino horn being effective in curing medical ailments.


An obvious and tried solution to the poaching crisis has been to de-horn rhinos. The thought being if there is no horn, there is no reason to harm the rhino.

This has produced mixed results. While some reserves have seen success, for others rhino were still poached AFTER the de-horning.

rhino dehorn by brent stirton

De-horning procedure on a South African reserve. via Brent Stirton

The process is risky to the animal. It is an invasive procedure, and as with any situation involving immobilization and anaesthetic, there is always a risk of complication. The process removes 90-93% of the horn, and needs to be repeated every 12-24 months.

It is also quite costly. Per Save the Rhino, current published estimates for de-horning range from $620 USD (Kruger National Park) per animal to $1,000 (private land).

Sadly with such a phenomenal price tag on the horn, that 7-10% still makes them a target for poachers. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes not  (in the darkness, they may not realize the rhino is de-horned until they have killed it).

So when considering this as an option, the risks need to be weighed. Is the rhino in a high-target poaching area? Is there enough security and monitoring to back up the procedure?

Horn Injections

The more recent method, developed by the Rhino Rescue project has been to make the horn less desirable by injecting it with a toxin.

Ectoparasiticides are used in conjunction with a dye. The ectoparasiticides are safe for animals, but not consumable to humans. If ingested, they cause digestive issues.  Once poached, it is this pinkish dye that conveys to users it is a tainted horn.

warning sign

Around the perimeter of rhino areas, would-be-poachers are warned of the dye-injected horns.

Although still requiring an anaesthetic, it is less invasive and only needs to be updated every 3-4 years. In addition it is fairly cost-effective when compared to other alternatives.

Initially it seemed an effective deterrent.

However In May of 2014, there were claims disputing it’s effects. The report by South Africa wildlife experts implied the dye “failed to deeply penetrate the high-density fibre of the horn.” This controversial report angered many who wondered at the wisdom in publicizing the findings.


In 2013, the WWF donated microchips to the Kenya Wildlife Service. The chips were planted in every rhino in the country.

The system works by implanting one microchip in the horn and another in the body. This, along with their rhino DNA database, helps to keep track of the animals. If a horn is found anywhere in the world, it can be traced back to the area of the poaching.

According to KWS, “This will serve to strengthen rhino monitoring, protect the animals on site and also support anti-trafficking mechanisms, nationally and regionally.”



















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Are Americans Grasping the Plight of the Rhino?

In a recent poll by the Center for Biological Diversity:

61 percent of Americans said they are concerned about the rate that wildlife are disappearing.

2 out of 3 Americans believe Congress should strengthen, or not make any changes to the Endangered Species Act.

Half of those polled think the country is doing too little to protect imperiled plants and animals, and that too many species are being pushed to the brink of extinction.

Much of this recent attitude has to be credited to President Obama’s executive order to combat wildlife trafficking.

Timeline in Rhino & Elephant Crisis Awareness in the US

  • May 2013- Miss USA, South African born Nana Meriwether, advocates for the plight of the rhino.
  • Jul 2013- President Obama announced the Executive Order to combat wildlife trafficking
  • Sept 2013-March for Elephants released the Elephant in Times Square billboard, educating thousands of Americans on the poaching crisis.
  • Sept 2013- Animal Planet’s Battleground Rhino Wars aired in the US, introducing many to the rhino poaching crisis for the first time.
  • Sept 2013- US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Southern White Rhino as threatened.
  • Mar 2014- US philanthropist Howard Buffet gave a generous 24 million donation to fight rhino poaching in Kruger National Park.
  • Jun 2014- New York passes historic ban on elephant ivory and rhino horn sales (with 80% of New Yorkers in favor of the ban)
by: Ryan Huertas

by: Ryan Huertas

Of course the US still has a way to go, but for a country who at one point was the second largest ivory market to enact a ban in its most populated state, it’s certainly nothing to scoff at. This victory will set the precedence for the rest of the nation.

Additionally, if the latest backlash against well-known hunters Melissa Bachman, Corey Knowlton, and Kendall Jones is any indication, momentum is leading toward a ban against trophy imports as well.

Please take a moment to thank the President and ask him to stand strong against those who oppose the ivory ban. President Obama: Keep Fighting Poaching








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Victory-The US Addresses the Elephant in the Room

elephants holding trunks

The US is a huge part of the global trade in ivory, second only to China. And within the US, New York is the number one importer ivory into the country. So the decision by the New York Legislature to ban the sale and purchase of ivory AND rhino horn is remarkable.

With support from conservation groups (The Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and The Humane Society of the United States) and celebrities  (Billy Joel, Meryl Streep, Kristin Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dave Matthews, and Matt Sorum), the bill is expected to be signed into law.

The law places a permanent ban on the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhino horn and increases the penalty for those found to be possessing or selling it.

This does not come as a complete surprise, as President Obama prioritized cracking down on wildlife trafficking in July of 2013, but it is definitely a crucial win in the battle of poaching.

rhino field

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Nigerian Kidnappings: The Link to Poaching

Rhino and elephant poaching is detrimental not only to the rhino and elephant, but to global security. Poaching profits fund terrorist activity, like the kidnapping of over 200 girls in Nigeria.

funding terrorism

On April 16, armed men took 223 girls from their beds in the middle of the night at their school in Nigeria.  They disappeared into the dense forest near the Cameroon border, and have not been seen since. Boko Haram is the Islamic extremist group responsible. They especially oppose the education of women, and it is believed the militants are selling the girls to be brides of their tormentors.

The Nigerian based  Islamic extremist group fights with advanced weaponry and equipment, which is in high contrast with the poor surroundings of the country. Their funding is vast and somewhat unknown.  In part, they may be receiving funding from other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, they also reap benefits from robberies, and poachings.

Boka Haram poaching activity is connected to both rhinos and elephants and spans Cameroon, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

boko harem by reuters

Boko Harem (by: Reuters)

In addition to Al-Quaeda, they are linked to the Somali group, Al-Shabaab, who claimed responsiblity for the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi in 2013. A major portion of that groups’ activities are reportedly funded by poaching as well. Claims are that up to three tons of ivory are bought and sold every month through a coordinated supply chain.

Andrea Crosta, executive director of the Elephant Action League (EAL), has studied Al-Shabaab activity and states that the group makes enough through ivory to support around 40 per cent of the salaries paid to militants.

The issue of poaching is being recognized as a global threat. In 2013,  US President Obama took a strong stance on poaching, issuing an executive order to combat wildlife trafficking.obama

“The survival of protected wildlife species such as elephants, rhinos, great apes, tigers, sharks, tuna, and turtles has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations,” it reads. “Wildlife trafficking reduces those benefits while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability, and undermining security.”

One of the methods governments utilize to defuse terrorist organizations, is through tracking their funding. Knowing they are using the wildlife to fund themselves should be reason enough to enact tougher tracking and penalties for poaching. Obviously stopping poaching will not put an end to terrorism, but it would stop enabling them, making it more difficult for them to carry out their inhumane activities.

In the meantime, there are hundreds of families in Nigeria desperately awaiting news on their daughter’s lives. Peace and prayers go with them.

Please sign the petition to draw attention and action to the kidnapped girls: Bring Back Our Girls

where are our chibok girls

Nigerian women demonstration, looking for help to free the girls.


(*African Daily News, Huffington Post, The Washington Times)





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