As a rhino poaching epidemic continues throughout Africa and Asia, the price of rhino horn has matched cocaine, according to the UK’s Daily Mirror. The price of illegal powdered rhino horn—obtained by killing wild rhinos and sawing off their horns—has hit £31,000 per kilo or nearly $50,000 per kilo. The price has already topped that of gold.
While illegal rhino poaching is occurring from India to Kenya. South Africa has been especially hard hit. Last year, a record 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone. Ten of the rhinos were black rhinos (Diceros bicornis), which are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Today around 4,000 survive.
Rhino horn has been used in traditional Asian medicines for thousands of years, but scientific studies have found no proof that the horn is an effective curative. Rhino horn is made mostly of keratin, the same substance that makes up human hair and fingernails.
Poaching, along with habitat loss, has pushed four of the world’s five rhino species toward extinction, including Indian, black, Sumatran, and Javan. There are less than 50 adult Javan rhinos in the world and less than 250 adult Sumatran rhinos.
This Bornean rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni), Tam, is a captive individual representing hopes for ex-situ breeding of the Critically Endangered subspecies of the Sumatran rhino (also Critically Endangered). Photo by: Jeremy Hance.
(11/25/2009) Rhino poaching has hit a fifteen-year high, and the rising price for black-market rhino horn is likely the reason why. For the first time in a decade rhino horn is worth more than gold: a kilo of rhino horn is worth approximately 60,000 US dollars while gold is a little over 40,600 US dollars.
(01/19/2011) Three hundred and thirty-three rhinos were killed in South Africa last year, the highest number yet. Ten of the rhino were black rhinos, which are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the rest were white rhinos, listed as Near Threatened. In total South Africa has over 20,000 rhinos.
(07/02/2010) Despite a number of scientific studies showing that rhino horn has no curative properties, supermodel, entrepreneur, and recent host of Britain’s Next Top Model, Elle Macpherson, says she ingests powdered rhino horn because: ‘[it] works for me’. In an interview with The Sunday Times via Twitter, Elle Macpherson says the illegal substance tastes like ‘crushed bone and fungus’.