Repeat after me: ‘Rhino horn is NOT medicine’

Last night I was in a real fury of rage and frustration.  The reason was a small classified advertisement I stumbled across when browsing through the current issue of City Weekend magazine – a fortnightly events magazine not unlike Time Out.  Placed in the ‘For Sale’ section of the classifieds, and following offers of second-hand bar/restaurant equipment, the ad read exactly as follows:

rhinoceros horn for sale                                                                                                          available in 11kilos rhino horn for sale at moderate prices to interested business personel or individuals. they are still in very good condition and the have eisted for about 9years today. for more details contact me at XXXXXXat gmail dot com. we also do special delivery to any destination worldwide.

WTF???   ………  WTF!!!!

China is a CITES signatory, its 1993 ban on rhino trade warmly welcomed by CITES, and selling rhino horn in China is illegal – so how-come this advertisment?  I  immediately sent an email to the editor of City Weekend asking what the hell was going on, and within an hour had a rather shocked response saying he had no idea how the ad got into the magazine, he too was appalled, was looking into it and would let me know.

The Rhino is in grave danger of becoming extinct – once there were five types of Rhino: the Sumatran, the Indian , the Javan, the White Rhino and the Black Rhino (the last two being African rhinos).  Alas, poachers killed the last Javan Rhino in 2010 so that type is now extinct. The Indian and Sumatran rhinos have been hunted to the verge of extinction  with only tiny numbers of each still surviving.

chinese-medicine-rhino-hornNow the poachers have turned their attentions to the African rhinos – with a vengance – because there are so few left in  Asia.


The reason is there is a great deal of money to be made from selling rhino horn in the far East.  Like ivory, rhino horn has been used for hundreds of years for carving bowls, figurines and other artifacts, but nowadays most of it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The practice of TCM is not confined to China but widely practiced throughout the East – in Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, and particularly in Viet Nam.

Contrary to popular western belief, the rhino horn was never used in medications for male virility, but for other less dramatic conditions.   What has caused the huge upsurge in demand for the horn is the story that went round the internet stating that rhino horn could cure cancers, and this ridiculous statement was repeated by a Vietnamese cabinet minister which made it go viral…needless to say, demand for rhino horn quickly reached epic proportions.


Of course, this is all a load of bollocks.  Rhino horn cures NOTHING, it never has and it never will.  Rhino horn is made of strands of keratin the same substance that forms our hair and our finger nails. It has no medicinal value and no nutritional value what-so-ever.  Frankly you could chew on your own toe-nail and it would do you as much good.  But the problem is that most people in the far East don’t know that.  Somehow we have to get the message across, spread the word.  I have been giving some thought as to how to do this in China, and though I have a few ideas I am going to have to work on them.

Meanwhile one very famous Chinese guy has been trying to get the word out. Yao Ming was one of China’s greatest basketball players.  He has joined the campaign to stop the trade in ivory and rhino horn, and is telling it all over the Chinese blogosphere.  More power to his elbow.

I am very fortunate, I grew up in central Africa, and had the privilege of seeing these amazing ancient beasts roaming through the bush – it would be appalling if my grandchildren, and the generations who follow them, could not see these wonderful animals just because of man’s ignorance and greed.

Wherever you live in the world, please consider celebrating the New Year by making a donation to Save the Rhino and do your bit to help stop this vile slaughter.

About herschelian

Started my 60s by moving to China with my DH. Surprised to find I am still here in Beijing eight years later - still finding it an adventure!
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5 Responses to Repeat after me: ‘Rhino horn is NOT medicine’

  1. Teuchter says:

    A new David Attenborough series on Africa has just begun on the Beeb.
    The first episode showed some wonderful footage of rhinos after dark, when they gather round the water-hole to socialise, flirt and introduce their children to each other. This gentle behaviour among rhinos had, apparently, never been seen before – let alone even suspected.
    It seems they do not altogether deserve their roughie-toughie reputation.
    The killing of any animal for spurious medicine is an obscenity.
    I hope Yao Ming’s campaign succeeds – and will be making a donation to Save the Rhino.

  2. Murray says:

    When people shop in stores for things like old carvings, etc. they often don’t ask for certificate of authenticity. Many of the items are not “old” and have been ripped from temples, cemetaries, etc. Another item to look out for. They often try to say that the ivory is old, before the ban. So. If you don’t buy it, they won’t sell it and won’t poach it.

  3. The poaching of rhinos is so senseless and devastating. In South Africa we hear on a weekly basis of rhinos which have been killed.

  4. Destiny Smith says:

    Thanks for helping the Rhinos. Those poor creatures are being hunted to extinction. When someone has a gun pointing at them they are probably thinking: “What did I do wrong??” Well the answer is NOTHING! The rhinos being killed are innocent. I apologize to all the rhinos out there on behalf of the stupid idiotic humans who killed your freinds and family.
    Anyways I live in Winnipeg Manitoba, and I’m just 12 years old. And I now it’s wierd but me and a group of friends at school have been doing a lot of things to help endangered animals. We have mainly been focusing on polar bears, and tigers. But after reading this I now realize how many more animals are going extinct because of humans. I’ll be sure to help. And if someone could please keep me updated on whats been happening with the rhinos as well as the Ivory trade that would be awesome. My email is Thanks Again!

  5. Sarah says:

    Hi !
    Thanks for this good site that helped me for a work. It is so terrible ! I hate poachers and I am glad to see I am not alone. Did you know that, in 2013, 3 rhinos per days were poached ?
    Rhino horn is NOT medicine.

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