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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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