Opinion Piece – The horn of Africa and South East Asia

Yesterday I read about a report on the international elicit Rhino Horn trade. The report is the result of an incredibly important investigation undertook by Los Angles based NGO Elephant Action League. 

Every time something about Rhino pouching comes up I see a number of ignorant comments following it. Almost always without a real solution, just outrage. To the usual dribble, here is my response:

Prohibition increases the price of any product. Chinese/Vietnamese Traditional Medicine has been prescribing Rhino horn as a treatment for MIGRAINES for centuries [That’s right, practitioners of traditional Chinese/Vietnamese medicine will tell you that the aphrodisiac indication is nothing more than a racist myth. The horn is not located in the groin area and thus goes completely against the principles of the practice]. 

Even though clinical trials have shown its effectiveness as no more than placebo, the treatment does continue. If you think thats stupid or ignorant, consider that homeopathy has many, many more studies over decades showing it’s also no more effective than placebo. 

You might say: “But this treatment, even if it worked, is causing the destruction of an entire species!” To that I say, consider the anti-vac movement. Here you have parents who are so scared of having to adjust their parenting to “cope” with a child who has ADHD that they are willing to gamble with the life of their babies. Not just that, they are putting the species as a whole at risk. Unvaccinated children are putting human herd immunity at risk. When the percentage of children who aren’t vaccinated reaches a certain point, we have outbreaks of those diseases. Diseases which have been thought to be eradicated decades ago.

Right, so now that we have established that it would be fundamentally hypocritical to condemn societies with users of rhino horn, how do we address this issue?

How do we end the poaching of Rhinos? 

We tackle prohibition. Rhino horn can be harvested without killing a rhino. Yes, it does mean they need to be placed under anaesthesia, but it’s already being done as a preventative method. The horn takes between a year and eighteen months to grow back. Perfect interval for medical checkup anyway.

Then “dispense” the horn at licensed treatment centres located on rhino reserves and proceeds going to conservation.

Effectively we can satisfy the top end of the market. As with alcohol after the end of prohibition in the USA and drugs in Portugal in the naughties (2000s), once you remove prohibition, the price drops heavily. I don’t think we will eradicate demand completely, but I believe it will lower prices to a level where poaching becomes unprofitable.

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