News / Asia

Bad Medicine: Rhino Horn Consumers Risk Death

Saf / Rhino HornsSaf / Rhino Horns
x
Saf / Rhino Horns
Saf / Rhino Horns
Ivan Broadhead
For generations of children in Ipswich, a sleepy English market town, Rosie the Indian rhinoceros has been the star attraction at the local museum.
 
But that changed in July, says Councilor Bryony Rudkin, when gang of thieves broke into the museum and stole Rosie’s horn.
 
“We have other valuable items, but they knew exactly what they wanted and did not take anything else. It was very targeted," she says. "All we know is a market exists for this horn. It seems some people believe it can be a cure for cancer or an aphrodisiac.”
 
Acquired from London’s Natural History Museum in 1907 in exchange for $30 and a stuffed pig, the much-loved rhino's horn, were it ground and sold to anyone in East Asia persuaded by the myth of its curative powers, might fetch $300,000.
 
“It felt wrong. It felt we had been violated and a community symbol had been lost," says Rudkin. "But if there is anything good to come out of this, it is that years after her death Rosie will be able to highlight what a pernicious trade rhino poaching is.”
 
Rosie’s case is not unique. While the trade in rhino horn is banned under international law, demand in Asia is soaring, and crime syndicates are not only poaching wild rhinos, but also stealing horns from museums. According to reports by Europol officials, an Irish crime syndicate is behind a wave of similar thefts from museums across Europe, numbering 70 since 2011, and now copycat cases are now occurring as far away as Brazil.
 
Toxic preservatives used
 
In the last few weeks, British police in Surrey, near London, prosecuted two men for stealing horn from another provincial museum; Haslemere. The culprits were jailed for seven years.
 
Detective David Pellatt, who headed this investigation, warns that rhino horn held in museum collections is preserved in toxic chemicals. It therefore represents a major public health risk if consumed as a medicine or, as increasingly occurs in Vietnam, in designer cocktail drinks. 
 
“It is treated with chemicals, including arsenic," he says. "This is all ground down in the horn. People are taking this powder not knowing what is in there. Who knows what the consequences might be.”
 
The poisoning issue resonating beyond the realm of public health. In South Africa, 455 rhino have already been poached this year, compared to 30 in 2007.

Ethical questions
 
With poachers and traffickers in ascendency, some conservationists are exploring ways of destroying the trade by intentionally poisoning rhino horn consumers.
 
Among them, reports Cathy Dean, director of Britain-based Save the Rhino, is Ed Hern, a game reserve owner who has lost several rhino to poachers.
 
“He was so angry, he said very openly he was going to treat his rhinos with poison," says Dean. "He is essentially saying to any poacher, if you come and kill my rhino you risk killing the people who buy your horn."
 
Dean does not condone such radical action. Nor is it without risk to the animal. Earlier this year, one of Hern’s rhino, named Spencer, died of a heart attack while being anaesthetized for a procedure to inject poison into his horn.
 
“You drill holes in the horn, drip in poison and seal it with wax," she says. "After a few days it looks like the horn has never been treated. There are rumors other people are already doing this on the quiet so the horn leaks into the market and mysterious deaths start happening.”
 
Julie Ayling, an organized crime expert at Australia National University, agrees that serious ethical questions need to be asked about what constitutes an acceptable response to poaching.

Targeting consumers is misguided, she argues, particularly when so many people in East Asia are unaware that rhino is an endangered species and the trade in its horn the preserve of criminal gangs.
 
“There is an element of desperation because so clearly rhino are on a trajectory towards extinction," says Ayling. "But we need a societal response — education so people understand the problem; law enforcement responses; and for people to value wildlife. Harming fellow human beings is not something I would choose as a good strategy.”
 
Thai and Vietnamese newspapers have linked at least two deaths to the consumption of toxic rhino horn. But there has been no firm evidence that intentionally tainted rhino horn has been consumed.
 
As the poaching crisis escalates, and conservationists consider increasingly radical ways to save the species from extinction, it isn't only the rhino's life is at risk.

Listen to report on poaching
Listen to report o poachingi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

 

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ted from: Ipswich
December 03, 2012 9:15 AM
If have someone try to steal a rhino horn, they exactly from VN. It alway happens.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid