There is a growing opinion among some conservationists, activists, and the general public that it is time to make a bold and very public statement in order to protect rhinos from the killing crisis that is poised to push these majestic creatures even closer to extinction.
As many of you are now aware, Assam announced in 2010 that it will publicly burn its stockpiles of 1,571 rhino horns. Saving Rhinos supports Assam's bold decision.
This courageous event will send an unmistakable message to rhino poachers, rhino horn traders, and consumers of rhino horn "remedies" that rhino horn has no monetary or medicinal value.
Here is why Saving Rhinos is in favor of publicly destroying rhino horn stockpiles:
Eliminate trading opportunities by eliminating stockpiles
Keeping rhino horn stockpiles sends the message to rhino horn consumers that trade in rhino horn may one day be legalized or that a one-off sale could be approved in the future.
In the event of any trade involving rhino horn, or even a one-off sale or auction, there is no doubt that the main purchaser would be China. Despite China's statement to CITES at the CoP 15 in March of this year that "the use of rhinoceros horn had been removed from the Chinese pharmacopoeia since 1993", what goes on behind the closed door of China is quite the opposite.
Not only does China allegedly possess an enormous rhino horn stockpile, it is promoting the accumulation of rhino horn in the event of an "unexpected disaster", as rhino horn is considered by traditional Chinese medicine to be one of "four key drugs" (rhinoceros horn, antelope horn, bezoar, musk) prescribed for emergency treatment.
A recent report, Effectively Utilizing Traditional Chinese Medicine in Unexpected Event, noted that although actual numbers are not known, "tons" of rhino horn are already kept in traditional medicine storehouses in China.
According to incomplete statistics, there are tons of rhinoceros horns kept in the storehouses of TCMM companies in provinces and municipalities. It seems very important for the government to store up the four key drugs at this time.
China's intentional accumulation of rhino horn, its refusal to acknowledge the findings of modern science regarding rhino horn's so-called "medicinal" properties, and its disregard for international law as a CITES signatory are keeping the illegal trade in rhino horn alive.
Allowing any type of trade in rhino horn with China - whether as a partner or a one-off sale - will push rhino populations even further to the brink, and undermine decades of conservation success.
One-off ivory sale whets China's appetite and reinvigorates elephant poaching in Africa
The most recent and tragic example of granting China access to species banned from trade occurred when CITES allowed a one-off sale of ivory to China. This disastrous decision whetted the Chinese appetite for ivory and resulted in the widespread slaughter of elephants across every elephant range state in Africa.
Eliminating the possibility of any future rhino horn stockpile sales to China (or any other consumer state) significantly reduces the opportunity for the rhino horn market to be further invigorated, as is the tragic situation facing Africa's elephants.
Expose the medical myth of rhino horn
If there is to be any hope of protecting rhinos from this "massacre for medicine", then the notion of rhino horn as a "remedy" is a myth that needs to be busted once and for all.
Consumers, traders, and marketers of rhino horn "medicines" have chosen to ignore scientific analysis that proves rhino horn has no medicinal effect on humans.
However, a public burning is a statement that cannot be ignored.
Following such a unified public declaration that rhino horn has no medicinal value, any country still promoting the use of rhino horn as a "remedy" is likely to have a difficult time having its scientific or medical contributions taken seriously by the international community.
Stockpile destruction 'breaks the cycle of trade'
Expert opinion matters. There are numerous examples of conservation experts advocating the use of stockpile destruction to end illegal trading cycles. Here are just a few.
Andrea Johnson, Director of Forest Campaigns at EIA via National Geographic, regarding the Madagascar logging crisis:
To end the cycle of illegal harvest and corruption, the government should take the step of destroying all stocks that are not contained in the latest official inventories... Traders, who are currently stockpiling illegal timber, hoping for another 'exceptional' export authorization, must receive a clear signal that it will be impossible to profit from the illegal trade in the future.
Dr. Samuel Wasser, elephant DNA expert at University of Washington via Science Daily:
Public support stopped the illegal ivory trade back in 1989 and can do so again.
Kuki Gallman, activist, conservationists, and author of I Dreamed of Africa who personally helped haul ivory to the 1989 burning, via Conservation Wars:
This bold and brave message, sent to the world, stopped the legal trade on ivory; for 19 years the poaching was enormously easier to control. All ivory was illegal. Ivory is neither food, medicine nor fuel. It is not an essential commodity. It is the tooth of a majestic animal. It is criminal that the great herds are destroyed to just make bad taste trinkets no one needs, but this is what is happening.
Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, in support of Assam's public burning of its rhino horn stockpiles:
All caring authorities have a responsibility to do the correct thing that is in the interest of endangered species, and it is my hope that you will rise to this challenge.
Perhaps the most famous is previous President of Kenya, Daniel arap Moi via The New York Times in 1989:
To stop the poacher, the trader must be also be stopped and to stop the trader, the final buyer must be convinced not to buy ivory. I appeal to people all over the world to stop buying ivory.
Rise up: Enough is enough
It is time for those responsible for the rhino killing epidemic to be exposed and held to public scrutiny.
Already, several subspecies of rhino have been slaughtered into extinction. In 2011, the Javan rhino and Western black rhino were declared extinct.
Why? To satisfy wanton demands based on myths and superstitions, to profit from a flagrant disregard for science and medicine.
A public burning of rhino horn stockpiles will not be ignored: Let us tell the poaching syndicates, their accomplices, and consumers of rhino horn "medicines" that the world is watching - and they can no longer commit their crimes and consume their potions in secret.
Rise up: Enough is enough.
Visit our blog Rhino Horn is NOT Medicine to learn more