Rhinoceros are among the most poached animals on earth, a data showed that only in Namibia 14 rhinos were killed since the start of 2014. Calculating the numbers, we get more than 3 rhinos are killed each years.
The population of this animal itself is reaching pathetic numbers, leaving only tens of thousands left in the wild. The most extreme poaching of this animal is in South Africa, where 558 wild rhinos were killed in cold blood.
All those poached rhinos were not killed for foods. The only reason why illegal poachers kill rhinos is for their horn. The animal’s natural weapon to defense themselves is actually priced highly in black market.
Many ways and methods has been done to prevent illegal poaching, but the results they give were never satisfying enough. That’s why, conservation groups all around Africa are forced to do the last resort: dehorning the rhinos.
For you who ask why all those rhinos are killed for their horn, we will give you simple explanation. The horn of rhinos consist of only keratin, which is also what our hair and nails are made of. However, some people believe that it has medicinal value.
Some people in China and Vietnam believe that the horn of this animal can be used to cure many diseases. They believe that the powder from the horn can cure cancer, used as aphrodisiac, and also an antidote for some poisons.
The currently biggest South African rhino horn consumer and market is Vietnam. This illegal business worth hundreds of millions dollars annually, and just a single medium-sized rhino horn may worth up to a quarter millions dollars there.
Not only that, in some middle-east countries like Yemen and Oman, the horn of rhinos may also be crafted into dagger handles. Those daggers whose handles made of rhino horns are expensive, making it a good business for black market traders.
With only based on those two main uses, hundreds of rhinos are poached each year. The reason why the poachers kill those rhinos is because it is almost impossible to get the the horns without forcing the animal go into rage to defend themselves. Of course, who likes the sound of a chainsaw cutting down your part of body?
Many kinds of efforts to save the animal has been done by local authorities and animal reserves. However, the price of rhino horns apparently is still to high to let go. Guarding the animals with armed forces is one taken in South Africa, but the result showed no significant decrease in illegal poaching of the animal.
If the only thing that those poachers are after is the value of the horns, getting rid of that value might work to protect them. This was when the idea of dehorning the animals to save their lives emerged.
“Project Rhino, an association of like-minded organisations established in 2011 that facilitates vital rhino conservation interventions, is making a national and international call for funding to have approximately 200 rhino dehorned in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa over the next year,” said Dr Simon Morgan from Wildlife ACT.
This strategy is actually not a new one in the table. Between the years of 1989 to 1990, Namibia had practiced it, resulting to zero death of dehorned rhino. This statistic might proved that the only value in this animal wanted by the poachers is the horn.
Nowadays, many wildlife reserves and national parks are applying this method to repeat the success that Namibia carried. The strategy to cut down the horn of the rhinos without hurting them is by anesthetizing them first.
The Last Resort
Zero death count in Namibia was an inspiring story, but that’s not the only one time rhinos got dehorned. The problem with this method is, similar strategy might not result in similar number in different areas.
The dehorning method was actually followed by Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe in early 1990s. However, unlike what happened in Namibia, those dehorned rhinos in Zimbabwe were still killed by poachers only about a year after the operation.
This is why many people are still considering this method as useless and pointless. Many people still believe that the most effective way to prevent illegal rhino poaching is by combination of good security and protection in private ranches.
However, Morgan and many other conservationists still believe that this method will work for the animal, at least temporarily. “Rhino dehorning is seen as a temporary measure to prevent the killing of a rhino for its horn by poachers. It is an ongoing process, as the horn regrows after removal,” said Morgan.
It might seem like those who support dehorning themselves are not really into this method, since losing a body part can give huge impact to those animals. But this is the last resort for them to prevent brutal poaching that results in increasing number of victims time by time.
Rhino And Elephants
Removing the valuable asset off an animal to prevent those creatures getting poached for it might seem rational. Dehorning might be able to prevent illegal poachers to get what they want, despite the controversy.
But rhinos are not the only animals hunted down by poachers to get just some parts of their bodies. Remember that elephants are also hunted down for their tusks, which mainly are also their defense mechanism weapons.
Kenya has started to adopt the dehorning method and applying it into the elephants. Conservationists and rangers in the country are working together to prevent illegal elephant poaching by removing part of endangered bull elephant’s tusks.
This step is more controversial than dehorning rhinoceros, since we know that the horns of those rhinos will grow back. But for elephants, the tusks will not grow back. It might be able to save them from the poaching, but not against other bull elephants in the wild.
Like mentioned before, cutting down body parts is not the most effective way to prevent those animals. It is a temporary step taken by the conservationists before bigger helps come. So, if you think that this method is too cruel, try to become part of that bigger help instead of complaining about it.