Troubling information indicates China is already farming rhinos for horn.
A disturbing proposal from China reveals that “artificial propagation” of rhinos is under way, and the use of rhino horn as an “important raw material” in traditional Chinese medicine is being promoted and encouraged. Is China preparing for an attempt to have the ban on rhino horn trade lifted?
State-funded proposal for use of rhino horn in TCM
A proposal from the China Institute of Science and Technology Research, Beijing, entitled Proposal for Protection of the Rhinoceros and the Sustainable Use of Rhinoceros Horn – funded by the State Soft Sciences Project, Development for Traditional Chinese Medicine Research – contains troubling information indicating that China is already farming rhinos in order to use rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine.
The rhino “farm” – referred to as the Sanya City Center for artificial propagation of the rhinoceros – is reportedly located in China’s Hainan Province.
In Hainan Province, the Sanya City center for artificial propagation of the the rhinoceros has already introduced a group of rhinoceroses from Africa, and is now engaged in research and other efforts related to rhinoceros nutrition, disease, rearing and breeding.
And, it is clear that “horn harvesting” experiments are already being conducted.
Initial progress achieved in research to extract rhinoceros horn from live rhinoceroses merits the attention and support of relevant institutions.
Rhino horn: Science vs. myth
Overwhelming scientific evidence has proven that rhino horn actually contains no medicinal properties whatsoever, as demonstrated in this video of Dr. Raj Amin at the Zoological Society of London.
Despite science, the use of rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine is still encouraged in China.
The utilization value of rhinoceros horn is extremely high; as an emergency medicine and an important raw material in the Traditional Chinese Medicine industry.
And what’s driving rhino poaching? The perpetuation of medicinal myths about rhino horn and the resulting demand for rhino horn “remedies”.
The rhinoceros horn is a product in extremely high demand in Chinese herbal medicine markets in Asia, and prices are high, with retail prices as high as several thousand U.S. dollars per horn; in areas of the Far East, the value of a 1kg rhinoceros horn is as high as 60,000 U.S. dollars.
These lucrative rewards are keeping rhino poaching syndicates motivated and profitable.
What about wildlife groups in China?
One immediately wonders if wildlife groups in China are aware of the rhino farm and the push for rhino horn products.
While it is likely some groups working within China’s borders may be aware of the situation, speaking out against a government-supported initiative can result in “unpleasant consequences” related to one’s job (pers. comm., July 2010).
In addition, Chinese wildlife protection laws are famously complicated, often subjective, and frequently suffer from ineffective implementation.
The trouble with endangered species ‘farming’
While the idea of a “farm” may conjure up images of wide open spaces and lush green fields, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to endangered species farming in China.
For example, China began “farming” tigers under the guise of “sustainable use” and “wildlife conservation”, and has continually attempted to have the ban on trade in tiger products lifted.
If you want to see an example of how rhinos will be affected by China’s plan to farm rhinos for horn, take a look at the following video about China’s tiger farms (warning: extremely graphic images):
Farming endangered species creates a market for poachers to sell their illegal wares and ensures that the market for endangered species products remains profitable.
Legalizing any trade in endangered or threatened species will push these animals even closer to extinction because there is no way to tell “legal” products from “illegal” products, making it easy for poachers and smugglers to integrate their slaughter into the marketplace.
By “farming” rhinos, China is making it clear there are no intentions to curb its role in driving the demand for rhino horn – and ensuring that rhino poaching syndicates stay in business.
And if its “tiger farms” are any indication, then China could eventually pursue a lifting of the ban on trade in rhino horn products.
Source: Yanyan, D., Qian, J. (2008). Proposal for Protection of the Rhinoceros and the Sustainable Use of Rhinoceros Horn. State Soft Sciences Project, Development Strategy for Traditional Chinese Medicine Research
Image: Wikimedia Commons