Rhinos: The Next DoDo?

Avery, Staff Writer

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Everyone knows a rhinoceros as a big, bulky, gray creature who walks around and frolics in the mud. They aren’t exactly the cutest animals in the world, but would you think anyone would try to kill a rhino?

Everywhere there are rhinos, there are poachers. And these poachers destroy the rhino’s lives. The poachers want the rhino’s horn. This is because rhino horns are worth a LOT on the black markets.  So the poachers kill and maim rhinos in order to get to their precious horns.

Rhinoceros populations are dwindling.  About 1.5 rhinos are killed each day as of 2012. Plus, there are only three Northern White rhinos left in the world! And it is not easy for rhinos to reproduce. They only have babies every two-and-a-half to five years, and they only have one or maybe two babies at a time. Plus, the poachers will go for any rhino. They don’t care if the rhino they kill is the last of its kind.

All they care about is getting the rhino’s horn so they can then sell it. If you look at the rhino horn market, one horn can be worth more than its weight in gold! That is a HUGE figure of money- about $30,000 per pound. And the horns can weigh anywhere from two to six pounds each. Nobody really knows why the figure is so large, but theatlantic.com has a very good guess. They believe that because of a rumor that circulated in Vietnam during the mid-2000s, many people think rhino horns can cure cancer! Supposedly, drinking rhino horn powder cured a Vietnamese politician’s cancer, and that rumor is still alive today! But this has nothing to do with traditional Chinese medicine. Huijun Shen, the president of the UK Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, explained to Nature magazine that there was no record of using rhino horn to treat cancer in approximately two million years of Chinese medical texts. Rhino horns are also only made of keratin, like your fingernail, so it’s like drinking powdered fingernail- NOT exactly cancer-curing, right?

Yet, some respectable Vietnamese doctors still vouch for rhino horn’s cancer-curing properties. Reportedly, 2.6% of people in Vietnam buy and/or use rhino horn. While 2.6% may seem like a low percentage, that is more than 245,500 people! And since there’s been about 150,000 new cases of cancer per year, and with only 25 radiotherapy machines as of 2010 for a population of about 94 million people, some Vietnamese people are understandably desperate to save their loved ones.  Also, since wealth in Vietnam is growing, people can afford to buy rhino horns, which increases demand. This leads to more poaching, so more rhinos die. As a result, the African savanna is also impacted and gets out of control because it needs the rhinos.

According to researchers, Joris P. G. M. Cromsigt from the Swedish University of Agricultural Science and Mariska te Beest from the Umeå University, “‘Not only is rhino poaching threatening the species conservation status, but also the potentially key role of this apex consumer for savanna ecosystem dynamics and functioning.’” What that boils down to is that not only is rhino poaching threatening to make rhinos extinct, but it’s also threatening how the savanna functions normally. So the problem of poachers killing the rhinos is also making the savannas grow overboard, since rhinos normally cut down on certain types of plants.  A decreased rhino population creates an overgrown savanna.

So how can you help? Well, you can donate or become a member of Save the Rhino, which is an organization dedicated to showing people the truth about rhino horns, and saving rhinos from completely going extinct. We don’t want rhinos being like the dodo bird a hundred years from now! helpingrhinos.org is another organization, as is rhinos.org. And of course, WWF, World Wildlife Foundation, supports saving rhinos and every other species. Rhinos need more than just an understanding of the problem, they need us to help them. So why are you still looking at this article? You should be helping to save a rhinoceros’s life!


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Rhinos: The Next DoDo?