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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid