Black Rhinos Killed by Dart Guns and Chinese Drugs, All For Their Horns

black rhino photo

Photo: Peter Burkel via flickr

Considering all the social and economic upheaval in recent years in Zimbabwe, you may not be aware of the immense threat that black rhinos face there. Illegal poaching has gotten so serious that some rhinos there are under round-the-clock armed protection, Discovery News reports: Though automatic weapons are often used, at least some poachers are turning to dart guns to silence their efforts. And even the protection that conservation officers give the rhinos isn't enough.

[Film producer Anne Sommerfield] told Discovery News that at one point, poachers broke into the conservancy, "tied up and assaulted the guards, and proceeded to kill three rhinos in their pens." Only a young rhino named Tatenda, which weeks beforehand had had its horns removed to protect it from attack, survived.

According to the article, autopsies have been done on animals killed via dart gun and the drug used was of Chinese origin—further evidence that Chinese demand for rhino horn is driving the animals toward extinction.

TheIUCN lists the black rhino as critically endangered; less than 3,000 individuals remain.

Uses of Rhino Horn
Rhino horn traditionally has been used in Chinese medicine to treat high fever. Though there is some clinical evidence that slight reduction in fever can result from its use at very high doses, at the doses administered by doctors there seems to be little efficacy in its use medicinally. Considering that there are plenty of other ways to reduce fever, including ones from natural sources which don't require a rhino be killed, it's decidedly time to move on and stop killing animals for medicine.

Other uses of rhino horn include as handles for daggers and other ornamental uses. Rhino horn was also used in cups designed to detect the presence of poisons in liquids—because many poisons used historically were highly alkaline, a reaction might occur with the keratin that the horn is made of and alerted the drinker of nefarious intent.

via: Discovery News
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