The decimation of the rhino in South Africa in 2012 continues on with a vengeance. In just 94 days of 2012 there have been 159 rhinos killed during poaching attacks for their horns. This is above last years figure of 130 rhinos through April 20th, 2011. The final toll of rhino deaths in 2011 reached 448.

These tragic figures represent the unending quest for rhino horn by two Asian countries, China and Vietnam. China, with it's unquenchable thirst for superstitious medicinal remedies from exotic animal parts and fluids by far leads the way. With the demand so high, poaching rings are rampant in South Africa where poor native people are easily hired as poachers and willing to risk their lives in order to receive compensation to feed their families. Greed is driving this crime against the rhinos as the price of a rhino horn is now worth more than it's weight in gold.

Rhino horns contain high levels of the protein keratin and have long been used in East Asian traditional medicines. "Rhinoceros horn is touted as a cure-all. It supposedly treats eczema, anxiety, convulsions, boils and devil possession", as was quoted by Rhishja Cota-Larson of the California-based organization Saving Rhinos. More recently have come the claims that rhino horn can cure cancer. It is thought that these false claims may now be the reason for the increase in attacks against the rhino. Scientists have not found any evidence of ingestion of rhino horn to be of any medical benefit, likening the affect to be similar to chewing your fingernails which are also made of keratin.

A research study done by Hoffmann-LaRoche in 1983 found no evidence that rhino horn has any medicinal effect as an antipyretic and would be ineffective in reducing fever, a common usage in much of Asia. Their testing also confirmed that “rhino horn, like fingernails, is made of agglutinated hair” and “has no analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmolytic nor diuretic properties” and “no bactericidal effect could be found against suppuration and intestinal bacteria.” Sadly though for the rhino, these scientific findings have not convinced an uneducated and highly superstitious Asian population to end their demand for rhino horn.

To add to the devastating news of increased poaching, Europe has seen the number of thefts of rhino horns increase sharply during the past year. Since 2011, Officials at Europol, the European Union's criminal intelligence agency, have recorded 56 successful and 10 attempted thefts, resulting in 60 stolen specimens. Criminals have stolen rhino horns from museums and private collections in 15 countries in Europe.

So what if anything is being to done to stop this horrible onslaught of the African rhinos and the theft of horns from museums? In Europe, the European Commission has announced a temporary suspension of trade in rhino horn across the EU, which also includes “artistic” items. In Viet Nam, the Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) has kicked off an innovative TV public service anouncement campaign to reduce demand for rhino horn. One PSA will capitalize on the recent sentencing of Vietnamese nationals in South Africa to long prison terms for smuggling of rhino horns. The second PSA will follow ENV’s assessment of consumer values associated with the use of rhino horn, focusing on dispelling the belief that rhino horn can magically help treat illnesses. In the rhino war zone of South Africa, in Kruger National Park where 95 of the rhino killings have occurred this year, 150 new rangers will be deployed to help stop the poachings.

The question remains though if this will be what it takes to stop the rapid decension of the rhino into the abyss of extinction?
Please watch the video below to get a better understanding of what the war on the rhino is all about and what conservationists and African park rangers are up against.

VIDEO Veterinarians save wounded rhino

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