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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify Power Base

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs