How Chewing on Fingernails Puts Rhinos on the Path to Extinction

How Chewing on Fingernails Puts Rhinos on the Path to Extinction

By Conor Godfrey on April 15, 2011

Rhino poaching makes me nauseous.

And it has already happened more than 80 times this year in South Africa alone.

It is also back in the news as the price per oz surpasses that of gold, and the infamous “Groenewald Gang “ comes back up for trial.

When people talk about the Guinean forest disappearing to make room for Cocoa farms—I’m upset, but I understand the calculus of the farmers doing the cutting.

When East African Farmers shoot elephants near their Watermelon farms, or Western U.S. ranchers shoot wolves near their cattle—I get it.

I am frustrated with the seeming inevitability of conflict between human development and species/habitat preservation, but I find it hard to really dislike the people killing animals they view as economically harmful pests.

Rhino poaching is an entirely different affair—this is organized crime.

Night-vision goggles, tranquilizers, helicopters, the whole nine yards.

The actual poachers are often unemployed South Africans and Mozambicans, but they are merely the tip of a multi-million dollar industry.

2010 was a brutal year.

333 Rhinos were killed in South Africa alone, including a number of critically endangered Black Rhinos.

In the first several months of 2011, 81 Rhinos and 9 poachers have already lost their lives.

In response to this dramatic uptick in poaching and violence, the South African government has brought in the heavies—as of April 1st South African military personnel have begun to take over security in South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park.

I tend to think protecting the supply will do little when a kilo of powered Rhino Horn goes for $35,850 on the black market.

More effort should be focused on curbing demand.

As recently as ten years ago the end-market for most illegal Rhino horn was Yemen, where artisans carved intricate jambiya dagger handles.

Studies suggest that Yemeni buyers can no longer compete with Chinese and Vietnamese traditional medicine markets where the vast majority of end users now purchase Rhino Horn and its derivatives.

However, we should all be more understanding; after all, Rhino Horn is the active ingredient in a number of highly effective treatments for cancer, high blood pressure, and impotency.

Wait—no it isn’t.

In fact, the purported medicinal properties of Rhino Horn have been tested over and over and the results are definitive—zip, zero, zilch.

Crushed up fingernails for what ails you
Rhino Horn is made of “agglutinated hair”—in other words—it is identical to finger nails. Here are links to a few studies for your perusal in case you find yourself reaching for the Rhino Horn powder before bed: Zoological Society of London, pharmacological study, Dr. Raj Amin.

The Chinese government does little to stop the misperceptions.

They even declared traditional Chinese Medicine as a strategic industry, and subsidized the industry to the tune of $130million.

Nauseating, I know.