The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This species of rhino is found primarily in South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. In the 1900s, the population of black rhinoceroses began to decline due to hunting and habitat loss. However, the real damage occurred between 1960 and 1995, when large-scale poaching reduced the population by 98%.
Rhino horns are highly prized in some parts of Asia, particularly China and Vietnam, where they are used in traditional medicine. Although it is illegal to buy or sell black rhinoceros horns internationally, a thriving black market exists—and for good reason. The prices for rhino horns are staggering; the horns can be worth more than their weight in gold.
War and unrest have also contributed to the plight of the black rhinoceros. Valuable rhino horns can be traded for weapons. And the price of a rhino horn is tempting in areas where civil unrest has led to increased poverty. Additionally, during periods of war and unrest, conservation and enforcement of wildlife laws is often not a high governmental priority.
A recent surge in the number of poached black rhinoceroses has led to new discussions about lifting the ban on trading rhino horns. Unlike elephant tusks, rhino horns are made of keratin, not bone, and will grow back after being cut off. In South Africa, it is actually legal to harvest rhino horns, though not to sell them. One argument for allowing legal trade in rhino horns is that doing so could flood the market and bring down prices, giving less incentive for poachers. But others argue that allowing the sale of horns would just make it easier for poachers to get their illegally obtained horns to the lucrative Asian markets.
to prohibit, or not allow.
exchange of goods and services where taxes are not paid to the government, or services are illegal, such as drugs.
organism threatened with extinction.
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
sulfur-containing proteins that make up tissues such as horns, hair, wool, nails, and feathers.
to hunt, trap, or fish illegally.
person who hunts or fishes illegally.
total number of people or organisms in a particular area.
status of having very little money or material goods.
buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.
traditional Chinese medicine
system of medicine established approximately 2,200 years ago that strives to prevent or cure disease by maintaining or balancing a body's energy, or chi (qi).
very long tooth found in animals like elephants and walruses.