Skeptic News: Rhino killed for horn

From: All Africa

A 17-year-old male rhino has been killed at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. The rhino’s carcass was found on Thursday morning. The rhino, fondly known as Nengotei, had both horns removed by the poachers. This is the fifth poaching incident Lewa has suffered to date and investigations are ongoing.

Last October, Kenya lost four rhinos in nine days to poaching incidents. On October 10, 2011, Chebii, a female rhino was killed, leaving behind a four-month-old calf who died the following day. A few days after the incident, another rhino was poached and her calf’s carcass found the following day with bullet wounds. The rhinos were at Solio and Mugie Ranches.

On the June 30, Max, a well known and tame rhino was also shot and dehorned by poachers on Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The hefty sum paid for African rhino horn today has attracted criminal groups ready to cash in at the expense of an entire species.

The latest killing is a harsh reminder of the threat facing rhinos across their entire range. Lewa is a wildlife sanctuary on 62,000 acres of land in northern Kenya covering the Ngare Ndare Forest. It has more than 10 per cent of Kenya’s black rhino population and over 14 per cent of the white rhino numbers.

Rhinoceros horns, unlike those of other horned mammals (which have a bony core), only consist of keratin. Rhinoceros horns are used in traditional Asian medicine, and for dagger handles in Yemen and Oman. One repeated misconception is that rhinoceros horn in powdered form is used as an aphrodisiac in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Cornu Rhinoceri Asiatici (犀角, xījiǎo, “rhinoceros horn”). It is, in fact, prescribed for fevers and convulsions.

Discussions with TCM practitioners to reduce its use have met with mixed results since some TCM doctors see rhinoceros horn as a life-saving medicine of better quality than substitutes.

A recent spike in rhino killings has made conservationaists concerned about the future of rhino species. During 2011 448 rhino were killed for their horn in South Africa alone

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