Dish alum Gwynn Guilford reports that Vietnam’s demand for rhinoceros horns – considered both a cure for cancer and a hangover remedy – has exacerbated a brutal campaign of poaching across Asia and Africa:
Some conservation groups, however, don’t think rhino horn’s newfound popularity in Vietnam has much to do with the cancer cure-all rumor (pdf, p.2). The more likely reason, they say, is that the horn powder is increasingly seen as a cocaine-like party drug, virility enhancer and luxury item—”the alcoholic drink of millionaires,” as a Vietnamese news site called it. … In fact, rhino horn is now more expensive than cocaine, which has helped build its cachet. It’s also ideal for greasing palms for business deals (pdf, p.36). That could be partly because newly affluent Vietnamese don’t have that much to spend their money on. The government has issued just 10 licenses for distributors of luxury goods. And its small size means Vietnam is still off the radar for many luxury brands. …
Paradoxically, the world’s dwindling rhino population threatens only to make this worse, as diminished supply makes prices climb even higher.
The liquid dye is not just dye. It is actually a mixture between the bright pink dye and an ectoparasiticide, which normally is used for protecting rhino against ticks. In this case, however, the purpose is not to protect the rhino against ticks but to poison rhino horn consumers. The purpose: Discouraging the (typically) Asian clients to buy the horn and to prevent poaching in the first place. If they consume [the] treated horn powder, they will heavily suffer from nausea, stomach-ache and diarrhea. The effects are non-lethal but harmful to humans, which sparked off a debate on the ethical correctness of the procedure.
National Geographic recently chronicled the poaching epidemic with this heartbreaking gallery.
(Photo: Indian forest officials stand near a one-horned Rhinoceros that was killed and de-horned by the poachers at Karbi hills near Kaziranga National Park, some 250km east of Guwahati the capital city the northeastern state of Assam on September 27, 2012. By Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images)