DEHORNING-RHINO-Karen-Trendler1 by liwenting


									     DEHORNING RHINO
     The Welfare, Ethics and Behavioral Considerations
     Karen Trendler

     Assessment of the efficacy of dehorning and legal trade in rhino horn
     (Diceros bicornis and Ceratotherium simum ) as a deterrent to poaching
     Endangered Wildlife Trust \ EWT Workshop The SA Mint 1-3 March 2011

     The ongoing crisis in rhino poaching has opened debates on the:

1.            The efficacy of dehorning as a deterrent to poaching
2.            The legal trade in rhino horn

     Following the DEA National Rhino Summit in November 2010, the South African government decided to look at the
     feasibility of legalizing the trade in rhino horn.

     This discussion document looks at the ethical considerations around dehorning and
                          proposed legalization of trade in rhino horn.


     The rhino horn issue is a highly complex and controversial one about which not enough is known or understood. More
     research and a better understanding of the various components and interrelated nature of the issues is needed.

     It is critical that decisions are based on well-researched, credible information aimed at reducing poaching and
     encouraging in-situ rhino conservation.

     Misinformation, media hype, well-intentioned but often misdirected anti-poaching campaigns, media reports, corruption,
     poor law enforcement, economic factors and commercial ‘drives’ further compound the issues.

     Whilst the workshop focused on the Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) and the White rhino (Ceratotherium simum)
     poaching, rhino horn and wildlife trade are international concerns with links to organized crime and need to be
     considered within a global context. All five species, the single horned Javan and Indian rhino and the double horned
     Sumatran, Black and White rhino are threatened by demand for rhino horn. Asian rhino are listed as vulnerable to
     critically endangered and these populations cannot sustain the current poaching pressure.

     Ethics, welfare and behavior

     Ethics refers to moral principles of right and wrong, which are guided by societal norms. Ethical decision-making looks
     at the issue holistically and takes all the factors, implications, and concerned parties into consideration. Simply
     summarized as ‘Doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason’. In order to make ethical decisions we
     need to be well informed and responsible, and ask the question ‘Does the end justify the means? ’

     Behavior refers to what an animal does and is associated with survival, basic maintenance, reproduction, socialization
     and how the animal interacts with its environment.

     Welfare refers to the health and well–being an animal, both physical and mental. Anything that potentially affects
     behavior can impact on welfare and consequently on the survival of the individual animal and ultimately on the species.

     Does dehorning affect behaviour ? welfare ? survival ?

     Structure and composition of Rhino horn
The horn is a tubular, non-bony structure that rests on the nasal and frontal bone protuberances. The horn is
composed of modified compressed hair-like fibers containing the protein, keratin. Computerized tomography CT scans
reveal that the horn contains a dense inner core of calcium and melanin (similar to horses hooves or birds beaks).
Relative proportions and mineral content vary according to region and diet.

The horn grows continuously from a basal growth point at a growth rate of between 5-12 cm per annum, depending on
age, sex and health of the rhino. The horn may break, chip, erode and re-grow throughout the natural life of the rhino.

The difference in composition between the inner core and outer sheath, combined with exposure to ultraviolet light,
results in differential wear and the tip being worn to a sharp point.

The Dehorning process

The horn is cut off while the rhino is chemically immobilized (anaesthetized). The removal of the horn is a non-invasive,
non-surgical procedure, similar to cutting one’s hair or nails and should not cause the rhino any pain or injury. Once the
antagonist is administered, the rhino can be up and back on its feet within a few minutes.

The risks associated with dehorning include those associated with anesthesia, cutting the horn off too close to growth
point and, drugging and handling a very large animal and effects on behaviour.

There are always risks associated with anesthesia. Etorphine\M99, the drug used for immobilizing rhino is procedure is
a strictly controlled, high schedule potent opioid. Newer drug combinations and experience have reduced the risks; the
current calculated mortality risk for free ranging rhino is < 1%. This procedure should only be carried out by a ‘rhino
experienced’ wildlife vet and team using the correct protocols and taking the relevant precautions, should perform the

A Veterinary protocol/ S.O.P for the dehorning of rhino is currently being compiled by SAVC.

Due to the continual growth of the horn, dehorning may need to be repeated every 18 – 24 months. Repeated
exposure to anaesthesia may contribute to short and long-term health problem; and increases the mortality risk to
between 1-2 %. Contradictory opinions were expressed at the workshop. A specialist veterinary aneasthetist confirmed
that risks increase with frequency of and repeated exposure to anaesthesia.

Drugging and handling of mega-herbivores carries inherent risks that may include injuries, bruising, overheating,
cardiac distress, respiratory depression, increased blood pressure, localized pressure myopathies, miscarriages in
pregnant females etc.

The horn should be cut off safely above the germinal growth layer. When the horn is removed too close to the skull,
bleeding, injury, maggot infestation, infection, caviations and deformed re-growth can occur. Rhinos have extensive
sinus cavities and infection in the sinus cavities following dehorning can have serious and fatal consequences.

Dehorning activities have been linked to ‘green hunting’ or ‘green darting’. This involves payment by a third party (a
tourist or ‘paying’ volunteer) to be involved in or carry out the process. This may increase risks. It should be noted that
the South African Veterinary Council \ SAVC states that green hunting is unethical and no vet may participate in this
practice. Department of Environmental Affairs will no longer issue permits for green darting\ hunting.

The relevant authorizations and permits must be obtained prior to dehorning. A valid permit is required for possession
of horn. The horn, once removed must be weighed, measured, micro-chipped permissions and registered with the
conservation authorities.

The impacts of dehorning on behaviour, welfare and survivability need to be considered in evaluating the efficacy and
ethical issues around dehorning.

What do rhinos use their horns for ?

Rhino horns play an important role in rhino life history of the rhino and are used for various functions associated with
survival\maintenance, reproduction and social interaction, including:
           Territorial, predator and calf defense
           Dominance and threat displays
           Maintenance behaviors including digging for water, digging soil and mud, foraging, breaking branches, and
    removing bark.
           Maternal care including breaking branches for calves to eat, moving and guiding calves, and protection

    Rhino behavior (territory maintenance and defense, mating, reproduction) involves a combination of factors influenced
    by size, age, sex, social ranking, and condition and population structure. Vocalizations, olfactory communications, scent
    marking, horn marking, scraping etc all form part of a range of behaviors thus the impacts of dehorning and horn
    function need to be evaluated within the complexity of behavior and social dynamics.

    Long-term genetic impacts would also need to be considered.

    Does horn removal impact on behaviour?

    Dehorning does impact on behaviour but the impact is variable; and the extent to which this affects welfare and
    survival of the rhino is not fully understood.

    Neutral and negative impacts on behaviour have been reported. The differences in response to dehorning can be
    correlated to variability in vegetation, visibility, predator type and density, food and territory availability, population
    stability, area, as well as age, sex and social status.

    The negative impacts of dehorning are more severe or problematic in compressed and unstable populations, especially
    in confined and intensive management situations. There are records of dehorned bulls being injured or killed by horned
    cows and lesser bulls. Extensively managed, free-ranging, stable populations displayed minimal or fewer recorded

    There is insufficient data on the ecological and social impacts of de-horning, and a need for coordinated collection,
    collation and evaluation of the impacts of dehorning on individual rhino and populations.

    Is dehorning effective as a deterrent to poaching?

    Whilst dehorning has proved to be a partial deterrent to poaching, it should not be seen as the only measure and must
    be utilized as part of comprehensive security management. Dehorning should be combined with other anti- poaching
    measures (increased security, improved intelligence and collaboration, strategic relocations etc). Dehorning is a crisis
    measure and should be considered on a case-by-case basis and not as a ‘blanket’ measure.

    Dehorning acts as a partial deterrent only. Rhino have been poached after dehorning.
    A ‘stub’ of horn remains after dehorning which is still harvestable by poachers. Dehorned rhino have been poached and
    the remaining horn dug out of the skull. The horn re-growth presents an ongoing poaching risk. There are reports of
    revenge or ‘political’ killings of dehorned rhino. Dehorned rhino are also apparently killed to reduce unnecessary

    Dehorning may create a false sense of security and does not remove merely transfers the risk and there have been
    armed robberies and theft horn.

    Another major concern is that dehorning in one area may move the focus of poaching to areas where dehorning is not
    taking place, putting extensive areas and national /provincial parks at greater risk.
Strategic dehorning or selective dehorning of animals is an option to consider and may reduce the risk to specific
animals. Rhinos maintain territories and where territories are located in high-risk areas (adjacent to roads, border
fences) strategic dehorning can reduce poaching risk when combined with other anti –poaching measures and may be
effective in both intensive and extensive situations.

Strategic relocations whereby rhino are moved from high risk areas to areas of lower risk or improved, or collective
security measures.

Dehorning, tourism and sustainability

There have been no detailed studies conducted on the possible impacts of dehorning on tourism. The effect on revenue
from tourism and aesthetic considerations need to be factored in.

There have been both positive and negative reactions from tourists to dehorning. Some felt that it was positive and
necessary step to prevent poaching, whilst others responded negatively and did not what to see ‘deformed’ rhino.

Concern has been expressed as to the effect of dehorning on the hunting industry. Dehorning may reduce the demand
for rhino hunts and this could as a disincentive to rhino owners.

Dehorning is a relatively expensive procedure, requiring vets, helicopters and capture staff.
Private landowners estimate costs at approximately R8000 per rhino.

Rhino ‘farmers’ argue that dehorning of rhino in intensively managed captive situations is less expensive and easier.
This needs to be evaluated against the negative impacts on behaviour in compressed populations. There is considerable
opposition from conservationists, welfare organizations and the public to seeing rhino farmed intensively for their horns,
especially in view of the canned lion and captive predator-breeding situation.
Intensive farming of rhino could further damage South Africa’s reputation and impact on tourism.

The motivation for dehorning as a means to stockpile horn for possible future trade should not be confused with the
dehorning as an anti–poaching\conservation measure.

Dr Sam Ferreira of SANParks reports that Kruger Park presently have between 9460 – 12130 rhino. Logistically it will
present a significant challenge to catch and dehorn the Kruger rhino that will need to be chemically immobilized from a
helicopter base. Rhino horn grows back and these will most likely need to be dehorned again at 1-2 years intervals.
Chemical immobilization takes about 1 hour at an estimated of R5000 per hour including helicopter flight time,
veterinary and staff costs. That translates to a cost of R47 to R60 million. Calculated costs including vet, helicopter
time, staff per dehorning is approximately R5000 and takes about 1 hour per animal. This translates into a cost R 47 -
R60 million.

The costs of dehorning and allocation of resources needs to be balanced against effectivity of dehorning as an anti-
poaching measure, the impacts on behaviour, welfare and survival of the rhino and tourism as well as practical and
logistical management considerations.

In addition to the potential impacts on tourism, the practical, logistical and economic sustainability render dehorning
unsuitable for in larger extensive areas and some national and provincial parks. It is currently the policy of
EKZWN\Ezemvelo Kwazula Nature Conservation, SANParks and North West Parks Board (Pilanesburg ) not to dehorn
rhino and to allocate resources and attention to improved security, monitoring ad other anti-poaching measures.
Namibia has decided not to continue dehorning.

Dehorning may be suitable for smaller areas and \ or privately owned rhino and should be at the discretion of

The Value of Rhino horn
The exact global or market place value of rhino horn is unknown. Quoted prices are hugely inflated and not a true
reflection of the ‘real’ prices which vary according to position in the trade chain. It is possible that these inflated values
have contributed to an increase in poaching and stockpiling, raising unrealistic expectations of potential rhino horn
‘farmers’, poachers, traders and economists. *NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) representative quote local SA price
as being R12 000\kg.

Asian rhino horn has a higher market value than that of African White rhino. The horns are smaller and considered
more potent. The more rare the species, the higher value. Horn from Black rhino and horn from rhinos in Assam has a
premium price.

What is rhino horn used for? And where are the markets?

Rhino horn is utilized primarily in oriental traditional medicine for non-life threatening conditions such as gout, fever,
rheumatism; and more recently touted as a cure for cancer. Contrary to popular belief, rhino horn is not commonly
prescribed as an aphrodisiac.

The horn is shaved or ground up and placed in boiling water. Traditional medicine practitioners apparently prefer
acquiring the whole horn rather than powdered or cut form. It is believed that horn from a live animal may be more
potent than from a dead one (references in this respect were contradictory). The central core of melanin and calcium is
reported by some sources to have a higher value than the outer part of the horn. Various sources spoke of the ‘horn
pulp’ having higher value and stronger medicinal properties but there is no ‘pulp’ in the horn. (Possibly ‘pulp’ refers to
the central core.)

Scientific medical research has shown that rhino horn has NO clinically proven medicinal properties; and was removed
from the Chinese Pharmacopea in 1993.

The largest markets are China, Vietnam and Thailand; and to a lesser extent Malaysia, Japan, Indian and South Korea.

The demand for rhino horn has grown, and will continue to grow as Chinese (and some other Asian) economies
become more affluent. In addition to rhino horn, the demand for ivory, and other endangered animals and plants is
growing. The Chinese population in Africa is growing rapidly and access to, and demand for rhino horn and wildlife
products is increasing accordingly. This has also opened up and facilitated trade and encouraged the market.

Rhino horn is also used for ornamental carvings, buttons, jewellery, bowls and containers.
Rhino horn has apparently been used to identify poisons. This may be due to the high calcium content of horn and the
alkaline, highly reactive nature of some poisons. There are cheaper and more reliable ways to detect poisons.

Rhino horn is also used in the Yemen. The traditional ‘jambiya’, a ceremonial dagger with a rhino horn encrusted
handle, is presented to pubescent Yemeni boys as a sign of manhood. With modernization of this society this has
become less popular and more ceremonial. North Yemen banned trade in rhino horn on 1983. A six-point strategy to
reduce demand was implemented. Antique daggers have increased in value, demand and status.

Most traditional importing countries have legislation prohibiting trade. Possession and trade in rhino horn is illegal in
both China and Vietnam and penalties for possession are high (much higher than in South Africa). Use or rhino horn
and other parts of endangered animals were banned in China. In spite of this, China is advocating research into the
breeding of endangered medicinal animal species and stockpiling raw traditional medicinal materials against future
shortages and in the hope of increasing the value.

There are reports that China is already harvesting horn from farmed \ captive rhino. According to CITES 61 rhino were
exported from South Africa to China 2006 -2007. China report receiving 117 rhino from South Africa for this same
period. Recently there were attempts to fraudulently export a large number of rhino to China from South Africa under
zoo applications.

Should the trade in rhino horn be legalized? Would it act as a deterrent to poaching?
As at the 25th March 2011, 75 rhino had been poached in South Africa, 46 of these in Kruger Park. Will legalizing the
trade in rhino horn act as a deterrent to poaching?

Legalizing the trade in rhino horn has been proposed as a deterrent to poaching.

Dr David Mabunda recently posed question about the South African conservation model that applies equally to the rhino
horn trade issue. “Is it merely a business model to generate economic benefit with conservation possibly as a by-
product? Or is it a conservation model that apart from the obvious biodiversity objectives and benefits, also provides
economic benefit?”

In considering the legalization of trade, it is critical not to confuse the issues and to ensure that it is the later and that
the aim is to dramatically reduce poaching and conserve rhino in their natural habitat.

Should we be considering the legalization of trade in rhino horn as a deterrent to poaching? Ethically (and realistically).

The legal trade is not sustainable and is unlikely to reduce poaching. There is a risk and indications that the legal trade
will stimulate demand and increase poaching.

Historically, legal supply and trade in high value wildlife products has not stopped or reduced poaching or the ‘black-
market’. Illegal wildlife trade undercuts legal operators through costs. There is a risk that illegal trade and demand will
be stimulated and illegal horn laundering facilitated.

Tiger farming and legalized trade has not saved the wild populations. To the contrary, illegal trade increased and
threats to tiger conservation are greater than ever before. Not only are tiger critically endangered but the conditions
under which tiger are farmed are inhumane.

Research indicates that the market for rhino horn could not be filled and is unsustainable. There are less than 25 000
rhino in the world and a potential market of 1.5 billion users in China and Vietnam. We have a poor knowledge and
understanding of current trade dynamics. Indications are that China would be more likely to farm its own product than
formally request trade with South Africa.

Trade will not conserve rhino and there is the risk that rhino populations could be driven to extinction. The market will
then simply move to another wildlife product threatening other wild species.

Rhino horn has no scientifically proven medicinal value. There are major ethical questions about promoting an
unsustainable product when more effective, ethical and sustainable products are available.

Even if horn had some medicinal value, threats to human life, security, welfare and conservation cannot be justified.
Just as promoting garlic and African potato to cure AIDS was irresponsible, promoting rhino horn as a cure for cancer
or other conditions is irresponsible and unethical; and a threat to the survival of rhino populations.

The trade in rhino horn is associated with organized crime and is linked to local and international crime syndicates also
involved in drugs, weapons, human trafficking, money- laundering and illegal wildlife trade.

According to organized crime experts, it is not just Asian syndicates involved with or pushing rhino horn trade, Africa
has well established organized crime networks that are flexible and dynamic. When rhino horn supplies are deleted,
the local and international syndicates will move onto other wildlife parts and products putting other species at risk.

Demand, market and profit should not be the only driving forces. Just because something makes money and is in
demand, doesn’t necessarily make it right. (There is a demand for and a huge market and big profits in child
prostitution and child pornography but that doesn’t make it right, ethical or justifiable.)

There is a demand, market and profit in rhino horn, but weighed up against the implications, risks and ethical
considerations, trade would be unethical and inadvisable.
Legal trade in rhino horn is neither currently legal nor possible. In order for trade to be approved by CITES, there are a
number of basic pre-conditions that would need, but are unlikely, to be achieved by participating countries.

South Africa is currently under scrutiny by CITES for our inability to control the rhino poaching, effectively implement
TOPS, and for the questionable and unethical practices associated with the wildlife industry (canned hunting, breeding
of colour phases and hybrids for hunting, unethical hunting practices, pseudo-trophy hunts for rhino). We currently do
not fulfil the necessary requirements to ensure safe or legal trade, and in fact face punitive action, including uplifting
white rhino to CITES Appendix 1, if we do not get our house in order. South Africa would be unlikely to be able to
supply a non- detriment finding. There are many factors that are critical to CITES membership. Our status with CITES
impacts on many other wildlife trade and conservation issues.

The South African wildlife industry has a poor reputation, with alleged involvement in rhino poaching and organized
crime. A ban was imposed on trade in rhino horn following abuse of the system (contrary to what the South African
wildlife industry are suggesting, the ban on rhino horn trade did not cause the upsurge in poaching. Illegal activities
and non-compliance forced an imposition of the ban.

(It should be noted that the push for legalized rhino horn trade is being motivated primarily business interests, the
wildlife industry and economists. Environmental and conservation organizations, law enforcement agencies, wildlife
trade specialists, animal welfare and animal rights organizations are opposed to trade based on the risks to rhino
populations and links to organized crime.)

CITES requirements include legal, regulated and established trading partners. End-user countries have not officially
requested supply \ trade in rhino horn. There is currently no clear commercial commodity, no clear end user and no
formal trading partner\s. China and Vietnam have not requested the trade in horn and have not acknowledged the
market or demand. In diplomatic engagement with South Africa, China refused to discuss the rhino horn issue. China
has a dramatically different approach and is more likely to farm and produce their own horn than formally open trade
with other countries.

The time required to put in place the necessary foundations for legal trade in rhino horn could take up to 6- 10 years.
The proposal to legalize trade is unlikely to succeed. Thus even if legalized trade could stop poaching, is not going to
happen in time to stop the poaching or the impacts on rhino populations. Our focus should be on stopping the current
poaching crisis now. Legal trade would take a number of years to facilitate and this will be too late as an anti- poaching

The current push by the wildlife industry is establish trade to facilitate ‘farming’ of rhino horn. In-situ conservation is
more effective than intensive breeding and there is considerable opposition to the proposed intensive breeding of rhino.
Intensive breeding of rhino for horn production would have serious welfare and ethical concerns and would negatively
impact on South Africa’s tourism reputation.

There are concerns that intensive rhino ‘farming’ may involve deliberate genetic manipulation that may have negative
implications for biodiversity conservation.

There is increasing recognition that captive stocks of wild animals do not contribute to conservation of the species.
Farming of rhino for horn production intensively should not be confused with or considered as a replacement for in-situ
conservation, which is more sustainable and effective (and ethically acceptable) and protects habitat, entire ecosystems
and species complexes.

What South Africa does impacts on other countries, on this continent and abroad. Problems with poaching and a
strongly commercial profit\ utilization driven wildlife industry has had serious negative impacts on the wildlife in
neighbouring countries. Cross border poaching and illegal wildlife abuse driven by the South African industry have
affected Zimbabwe, Zambia and other Africa countries.

The rhino horn issue will and is affecting Asian countries trying to conserve their dwindling rhino populations.

 Trade in rhino horn will not stop poaching and the costs of protecting the resource may outweigh the benefits and
profits. Inflated prices have raised expectations. The legal trade in rhino horn would benefit only a few.
References, Acknowledgements and Communications

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