Should we de-horn rhinos?

Pictured: Poachers will kill animals in captivity for their horns. (Source: Rose Davies via flickr.)


By Gareth Axenderrie

No humane person wants to see a rhinoceros or an elephant with anything other than a horn or its tusks, but the time has come to protect these incredible creatures against the evil that exists to exploit them.

Ivory is a huge illegal global industry, now estimated to be worth upwards of $20 billion a year. The demand for horn and tusk -which will cost you $3,000 per kilo- has led to a catastrophic boom in illegal poaching over the last two decades. Up to 35,000 elephants and rhinos are killed in Africa every year, but the clamour for the commodity has also led to horrific incidents in Europe in recent months.

Earlier this month, a southern white rhinoceros named Vince was found dead at a zoo outside Paris. Shot three times in the head, his horn had been removed in crude fashion by a chainsaw. A truly beautiful creature; killed for its horn. The rhetoric from the west is all well and good, killing endangered animals for their ivory is sick, but rhetoric doesn’t do much to stop a man with a gun, a chainsaw and blood money in his eyes.

One zoo in the Czech Republic has taken extreme measures to prevent such an atrocity happening to their rhinoceroses. The Dvur Kralove zoo near Prague has taken the decision to remove the horns from all 21 of rhinos.

The reality is that elephants and rhinoceroses will continue to be slaughtered for what some evil bastards regard as a commodity worth murdering for. Experts suggest that global demand for ivory is falling since China moved to initialise a ban on it last year, however that hasn’t yet decreased the lucrative desire to supply an inflated demand. In the meantime, a radical response is needed, even here in Europe.

An elephant or rhino without its tusks or horn is a sad sight, but I would argue that a dead one, with its ivory making some very evil individuals a lot of money, is far worse. Currently, these are the options. In captivity, tusks and horns serve no purpose, to remove them is no more harmful than clipping your toe nails. Evil exist in this world, telling them not do evil things won’t work, prevention is the only way to stop the bloodshed.


By Christopher Jones

A recent incident in a French zoo saw poachers break in and kill a white rhinoceros before sawing off its horn to sell on the black market. This incident has resulted in a zoo in the Czech Republic safely removing the horns from its 21 rhinos in order to prevent a similar incident occurring again. My initial reaction was that this was a sad, but ultimately necessary precaution to take in order to protect the lives of the rhinos. But considering it with the bigger picture in mind, the ‘better de-horned than dead’ argument, while admirable, sets a terrible precedent. And it is this ideology which I am opposed to,

By severing the horns from these rhinos, the zookeepers have essentially given in to the threat of the poachers, rather than standing in defence of the animals’ natural state. The time spent degrading these rhinos by dismantling their defining trait, is time that could have been better spent; for example, it could have been used to improve the security measures of their enclosures. Doing so would combat the poachers’ illegal activities without sacrificing the animal’s identity.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that many modern zoos care for their animals only a certain period, for conservation or study, and then place them back into the wild. These rhinos could never function in their natural habitat, however, because the horn is so integral their survival. There is no question of putting a de-horned rhino back in the wild unless someone actually wished to endanger it. Rhinos horns are desperately needed; from defending territories and foraging for food, to defending and caring for their young, rhinos are constantly using their horns. But now, the Czech zookeepers (as well as any other zoos that follow suit) have ensured their rhinos are incompatible with the natural world, forcing them to remain in captivity forever.

The measure taken by this Czech zoo is undeniably well-intentioned, and may even result in fewer rhino casualties. But it is equally clear that these efforts, meant to deter poachers from stealing more horns, are more damaging to the animals than the criminals.

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