Most people look at a rhino horn and see one of nature’s most distinctive symbols. Unfortunately, others look at those same horns and see only a profit.
The impact of illegal poaching on rhino species around the globe was a big topic at the International Rhino Foundation board meeting I attended last week at the San Diego Zoo. Sadly, a lucrative black market for rhino horns has encouraged a surge in smuggling—and deaths for these threatened animals.
Kevin at San Diego Zoo for the International Rhino Foundation board meeting
Many rhino species—including Javan rhinos, Sumatran rhinos and the black rhinos you can see at Lincoln Park Zoo—are endangered, in large part due to poaching for horns. Smuggled horns are valued in parts of Asia as components in traditional medicine, where they’re thought to reduce fevers…and hangovers.
Health may not be the primary motive for the trade. The illegal, expensive items often serve as status symbols, prompting more deaths for these magnificent, endangered animals.
Learning the scale of the problem—and understanding how the black market has shifted in recent decades—can only help conservation efforts. As the Harris Family Foundation Black Rhinoceros Habitat shows, Lincoln Park Zoo is a leader in black rhinoceros conservation. We’re proud to work with other zoos through the Eastern Black Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan® to protect these amazing animals.
The threats facing rhinos don’t have easy answers. But zoos can part an important role in saving these species, both through conservation programs and by enlisting visitors as partners in care. When you see the magnificence of a rhino up close, it’s much harder to think their horns belong anywhere other than right on their heads.