Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses animal tissues, organs and bones to produce medicines for a wide range of health problems. The endangered rhinos are ones of many victims TCM. These majestic animals are killed for their horns, which are milled into powder. The horns have no healing effect, but they are worth more than diamonds.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
One of the well-known ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine is the horns of rhinos. The horn powder is administered as an aphrodisiac or as a headache medicine. This medicine is prescribed for ulcers, typhoid, and fever. It is recommended for the treatment of gout, rheumatism and asthma. It is even recommended against hallucinations and “obsession with evil spirits”, as the old Chinese book from the 16th century states.
Faith vs. Common Sense
Performed chemical analyzes of rhino horn revealed only keratin. No special substances with special effect were found. Protein keratin is also found in animal hair, horns, hooves and claws. Humans have keratin in their nails, hair, beard and hair.
This commodity is worth more than gold, diamonds or cocaine. Demand for rhinoceroses’ horn is growing tremendously, the price per kilogram of horn is astronomical – over $ 60,000. The price has been 13 times higher since 1993, when one kilo of horn cost 4600 USD.
African poachers are equipped with the latest weapons and technology. They also kill rhinoceroses, which are cut off their horns by the reservation managers in the hope that such an animal would be worthless to poachers. But the poachers find to worthwhile to remove at least a growing stump.
In the past centuries, three Asian rhinoceros’ species have been killed (Javan rhinoceros/R. sondaicus, Sumatran rhinoceros/Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, and Indian rhinoceros/R. unicornis), which are smaller than African rhinos. The Chinese believe that their horns contain more concentrated active ingredients than the horns of their African relatives and are therefore much more valued by traditional Chinese medicine.
In Africa, the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), estimated to be around 20 000, and black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) are now being illegally hunted, leaving the last 5 000 individuals. Most of them, up to 90% have their habitat in South Africa and Namibia. In recent years, the number of animals killed by poachers has doubled each year. It is estimated that rhinos can be exterminated in twenty years.
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