No horn of plenty

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More rhinos will be killed in the next two years than will be born, so those charged with saving the endangered animal are considering radical and previously unimaginable solutions.


The battle to save the African rhinoceros has all the ingredients for a Hollywood thriller. There are armed baddies with good guys in hot pursuit. There is a hint of glamour. And the drama is played out against a backdrop of a beautiful, bloodstained landscape.

It is a story that begins, perhaps improbably, in Vietnam soon after the turn of the 21st century. A Vietnamese official of some influence, so the story goes, lets it be known that he, or perhaps it is his wife (for the sake of the story it matters little), has been cured of cancer. The miracle cure? Rhino horn powder.

With disconcerting speed, the story shifts to southern Africa, where a series of gunshots ring out across the African plains. This is followed by the hacking sound of machetes – it takes little time to dehorn a rhino because its horn consists not of bone but of keratin fibres with the density of tightly compressed hair or fingernails.

The getaway begins, armed rangers give chase. Once the horn leaves the flimsy protection of the national park or game reserve, where its former owner lies bleeding to death, it may never be found, its new owners never brought to justice. Sometimes they are caught. Sometimes they get away. Either way, another rhino is dead in a war that the bad guys seem to be winning.

The story shifts again, back to Vietnam where even the prime minister is rumoured to have survived a life-threatening illness after ingesting rhino horn. More than a cure for the country's rich and powerful, however, rhino horn has by now crossed into the mainstream. Young Vietnamese mothers have taken to keeping at hand a supply of rhino horn to treat high fevers and other childhood ailments.

Written By: Anthony Ham
continue to source article at theage.com.au

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  1. Why didn’t they simply take one single rhino horn, grind it up and mix it into some water, then serially dilute the sample until there was statistically no rhino horn particles in a given sample of the water?

    Everyone knows that the water would then remember the rhino powder’s structure and this one sample could be used to treat every one who desired it.

    It is win/win. Idiots get their precious rhino horn (in the form of homeopathic rhino horn pills) and the rhino population suffers a net loss of one rhino horn.

    • In reply to #1 by crookedshoes:
      Not only does it have the power of Rhino horn, but with the added kick of homeopathy! I love it. I’ll hold out until it gets new lemon scent. I’ve always liked lemon scent.

    • In reply to #1 by crookedshoes:

      Why didn’t they simply take one single rhino horn, grind it up and mix it into some water, then serially dilute the sample until there was statistically no rhino horn particles in a given sample of the water?

      Everyone knows that the water would then remember the rhino powder’s structure and this on…

      that already exists as a homeopathic treatment for those suffering the effects of being charged by a rhino

  2. Stupid people with stupid superstitions are causing the demise of these creatures. There needs to be a massive education program so that those who want the so called healing benefits simply bite their own fingernails and eat them instead of discarding them – it is the same dammed stuff after all.
    These people who buy this stuff are – sorry to say – just plain dumb/ stupid/ moronic/ backward when it comes to superstition. Held hostage by their superstition and an inability to see or care what their unfounded so called medicine does in other parts of the world. And for what? False hope that they may cure them of a disease or have a slightly longer lasting erection. They are pathetic given how corruptible they and their government and police are.

  3. I’m confused. Is this business about rhino horn curing cancer one of those superstitious beliefs we’re supposed to respect or not?

    If there are any atheist but-heads out there, please could you be kind enough to help by writing down 2 lists: 1 detailing the superstitious beliefs that must always be respected, and the other detailing the superstitious beliefs that we are allowed to criticise.

    This will save everyone a lot of time and stress in future.

      • In reply to #9 by Pi:

        In reply to #3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

        If there are any atheist but-heads out there…
        There is no such thing as an atheist but-head.

        They’re certainly hard to spot around this issue.

      • In reply to #9 by Pi:

        In reply to #3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

        If there are any atheist but-heads out there…
        There is no such thing as an atheist but-head.

        People who called themselves atheists but that I consider butt heads: Ayn Rand, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tsung. I can anticipate your response “but they weren’t true Scotsmen!”

    • In reply to #3 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

      If there are any atheist but-heads out there, please could you be kind enough to help by writing down 2 lists: 1 detailing the superstitious beliefs that must always be respected, and the other detailing the superstitious beliefs that we are allowed to criticise.

      This will save everyone a lot of time and stress in future.

      1- Respect is due to those beliefs that are true (or likely to be true).

      2- Disrespect those beliefs that are false (or have been proven to be lies).

      Easy!

  4. So….shortly after the last rhino is killed, there will be a mass penis-wilting in Asia, and a surge in cancer cases. They may have to turn to tiger testicles, shark fins, turtle eggs, and bear gallbladders…wait, they already have.

    Isn’t it just fantastic that the greatest mass extinction since the Permian era is not only being caused by humans, but by human superstitions? What power. What a mighty achievement. What a distinction. Humans – the first species capable of actively and purposefully trashing an entire planet out of sheer short-sighted stupidity.

  5. I think its a very sad but unavoidable fact that the future is going to see some extinctions due to climate change and other human induced changes. And as I look at these guys with guns guarding one Rhino I think its a rational question to ask how much should humans invest to keep them? Isn’t there a school for girls somewhere near by that’s in danger of being trashed by religious misogynists or some village about to burn a woman for being a witch where they could be more useful?

    It may seems like I’m committing what Dawkins calls Gaps in the mind legalistic thinking: http://www.animal-rights-library.com/texts-m/dawkins01.htm

    but I’m not. I’m not saying that all thoughts for human suffering must be considered before any thoughts of animal suffering. I’m saying we are going to have very hard choices to make in the coming decades and the more rational approach is to realize that regardless of what we do some species are going to go extinct and some shorelines are going to go into the sea. And rather than trying to force these things not to happen — by guarding invidual animals with teams of armed men or building huge sea walls that only postpone the inevitable — its more rational to focus on real systemic changes that will truly make a long term difference rather than stop gap measures that make people feel good but only postpone the inevitable.

    • In reply to #8 by Red Dog:

      I think its a very sad but unavoidable fact that the future is going to see some extinctions due to climate change and other human induced changes. And as I look at these guys with guns guarding one Rhino I think its a rational question to ask how much should humans invest to keep them? Isn’t ther…

      You are right, of course. Some cases are hopeless and resources must be spent wisely.
      On the other hand,
      Avengers: $607,200,000.00
      The Hunger Games; $402,800,000.00
      The Lorax: $203,200,000.00
      21 Jump Street: $138,400,000.00
      Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: $103,900,000.00
      Think Like A Man: $91,000,000.00
      Act Of Valor: $70,000,000.00
      Chronicle: $64,600,000.00
      Ted: $63,100,000.00
      The Devil Inside: $53,300,000.00
      Magic Mike: $44,100,000.00
      The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: $40,600,000.00
      The Secret World Of Arrietty: $19,200,000.00

      Total: $1,901,400,000.00 in ticket sales last year on only 13 movies.

      People just don’t care enough to make it a priority.

      • In reply to #14 by zengardener:

        In reply to #8 by Red Dog:
        Total: $1,901,400,000.00 in ticket sales last year on only 13 movies.
        People just don’t care enough to make it a priority.

        Now I want to cry. And donate to a good charity.

  6. Some private game farms here in South Africa have started drilling into the horns of their rhino’s and inserting capsules of poison. The poison slowly absorbs throughout the horn, making for an unpleasant (and richly deserved) surprise for any superstitious moron who thinks it will enhance his “horn”.

    Every time I read a report in the paper about some poacher(s) being killed by game wardens (and occasionally a lion), I get a rather pleasurable thrill of satisfaction up my spine.

  7. Probably a good thing I do not rule the globe.

    The penalty for poaching rhino horn; Death by impalement.

    The penalty for possessing rhino horn: See above penalty.

    The penalty for possessing rhino horn paraphernalia: See penalties above.

  8. Could rhino horn be poisoned in some way that did not hurt the rhino? Some dye could be used to warn of the presence of the poison.

    Perhaps you could create counterfeit rhino horn and flood the market with it to depress prices.

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