We’ve been covering various stories of Traditional medicinals that use endangered animals for their parts that supposedly have magical qualities. They don’t. They do make the rhinos disappear though.
It was in most respects a typical heist that happened in Dublin last month. Masked men, roughed-up security guards, $650,000 in stolen booty. But this wasn’t art or jewelry that was stolen. The contraband, instead, was four rhinoceros heads. Or, more specifically, their horns.
What is driving this “highly organized” crime ring?
If you guessed “China,” you were wrong. The answer is Vietnam. The country’s appetite for rhino horn is so great that it now fetches up to $100,000/kg, making it worth more than its weight in gold.
Rhino horn is also popular among some public officials. ”I can drink a lot of alcohol but I am still sober and strong. I don’t have a headache and I do not feel tired,” Tran Huy Tu, a senior policeman, told AFP, apparently fearless of any consequences. “It’s not legal to buy this stuff, but in Vietnam you can buy anything with money.”
Appalling and false. Originally, rhino horn was touted as a cure for cancer which is a big problem in the country where conventional treatment is not readily available. People resort to folk cures. But it appears the draw for the illegal product (that consists of keratin, that which makes up your nails and hair), is for:
…a cocaine-like party drug, virility enhancer and luxury item—”the alcoholic drink of millionaires,” as a Vietnamese news site called it.
Also today, on NPR: Can Economics Save The African Rhino? : Planet Money
This piece discusses the three options being consider to possibly save the rhino: Legalize horn and harvest it without killing animals. Or, burn it and devalue it entirely. Finally, poison the horn so that people who use it become ill. The options are weighed. However it simply may be too late for the creature whose numbers are crashing every year as more animals are taken.