Published: 17/12/2013 12:14 - Updated: 10/10/2017 15:50

Why has the Western Black Rhino become extinct?

Written byConservation


Rhinos like this one are under threat from poachers after their horn.
Rhinos like this one are under threat from poachers after their horn.


The Western Black Rhino is is the latest animal to be declared extinct, with conservationists blaming poachers and lack of conservation while also warning that other rhinos could follow.

The poaching of the horned animals is strictly prohibited in international trade, yet it is estimated that every nine hours a rhino is poached, with a predicted 900 rhinos being slaughtered in South Africa this year. Why?

Much like an elephant's ivory, there is always a market for such things – however, the reason for a rhino-horn black market is even more stupid than wanting your back-scratcher to be made out of slightly shiny bones.

Rhino horns are worth a lot, and the black market value for horn is staggering, currently fetching more than gold and platinum. There is a particular demand for them in Asia, where they have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as a prescribed cure for cancer and other ills. However, the most ludicrous thing that rhino horn is allegedly useful for is as an enhancer of male sexual performance. I say “allegedly”, but what I actually mean is “obviously not”. How can I say that with such certainty?

Time for a quick biology lesson. Rhino horns are unique amongst other horned animals. While most creatures' horns are bone coated in a thin layer of keratin, rhino horns are entirely made up of keratin. What's keratin? It's what makes up your hair and fingernails. You know, those things that if you chew just makes you feel (and look) a bit disgusting and will guarantee that any naked tumblings will be strictly off the cards?

So, gentlemen, when you're considering rhino horn as an alternative to viagra, you might as well bite your own fingernails before sex - a habit that is actually much less disgusting than ingesting pieces of endangered animals.

While this piece of writing on the issue may come across as glib, rhino-poaching is a very serious concern. For more information on the problem, Samara Private Game Reserve in South Africa has created this very useful infographic as part of its latest conservation campaign to stop the poachers:

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