Rhino horn cannot be legally sold on the international market. The international trade in rhino horn was banned in 1976 by signatories to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Rhino horn is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but increasingly common is its use as a status symbol to display success and wealth. Poaching is now a threat in all rhino range states, however as South Africa is home to the majority of rhinos in the world, it is being heavily targeted. More than ever, field programmes are having to invest heavily in anti-poaching activities.
Poachers are now being supplied by international criminal gangs with sophisticated equipment to track and kill rhinos. Frequently a tranquiliser gun is used to bring the rhino down, before its horn is hacked off, leaving the rhino to wake up and bleed to death very painfully and slowly. Poachers are often armed with guns themselves, making them very dangerous for the anti-poaching teams who put their lives on the line to protect rhinos.
The scarcity of rhinos today and the corresponding intermittent availability of rhino horn only drives the price of horn higher and higher, intensifying pressure on declining rhino populations. For people whose annual income is often far below the subsistence level, the opportunity to change one’s life by killing an animal that they don’t value is overwhelming.
What is rhino horn?
Rhino horns are similar in structure to horses’ hooves, turtle beaks, and cockatoo bills. They are made of keratin – in rhinoceros horn, it is chemically complex and contains large quantities of sulphur-containing amino acids, particularly cysteine, as well as tyrosine, histidine, lysine, and arginine, and the salts calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate.
Information from Save The Rhino