Last updated: 12:03 AM ET, Thu July 02 2015

Tourism Companies Move Rhinos to Save Them

Tour Operator | Abercrombie & Kent | David Cogswell | June 11, 2015

Tourism Companies Move Rhinos to Save Them

PHOTO: A C130 Hercules aircraft was used as part of recent relocation efforts to protect rhinos from poachers. (Courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent)

Never has the principle “let the market decide” been more tragically wrong than in the case of the market for powdered rhinoceros horn. Because of an ill-founded belief — some would call it a superstition — that powdered rhino horn can be used as a medicine, rhinos may soon disappear from the planet forever.

Some tourism companies are doing what they can to save the rhino from extinction. Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy recently partnered with Sanctuary Retreats and Rhino Conservation Botswana, The Botswana Defense Forces and Wilderness Safaris to transport a group of about 20 rhinos to Moremi Reserve in Botswana, where they will hopefully be safer from poachers.   

The movement of rhinos took about 15 hours total, including a six-hour truck ride to the airport in South Africa, a flight to Maun, Botswana, and a final flight to their new home in Botswana. A Lockheed C130 Hercules aircraft was used to transport four tons of rhinos in two deliveries.

Related: Safari Operators Move Rhinos to Safe Ground in Botswana

The market for rhino horn is enormously lucrative with the substance selling for as much as $30,000 a pound. With that kind of profit available, the economically disadvantaged can be tempted to become poachers with payments that can change their lives from poverty to affluence. The tide of destruction powered by the market is almost impossible to defend against.

And it’s all based on a belief that is unfounded.

“According to the people who sell it in the markets of East Asia,” states a post on Africa Check, “powdered rhino horn can serve as everything from a cure for cancer to an all-purpose health tonic, a sexual stimulant, a hangover cure and a treatment for high fever.”

There is little evidence for the much-vaunted healing powers of rhino horn. According to Dr Raj Amin at the Zoological Society of London, quoted by Africa Check, “Medically, it’s the same as if you were chewing your own nails.”

There is no evidence that powdered rhino horn has any effectiveness as a cure for cancer, but because of the belief that it does, there is a huge demand for it. The result is that hundreds of rhinos are killed every year for no purpose other than to chop off their horns and send them off to the Asian markets.

Without a very serious effort to defend them, rhinos will soon be extinct. And it won’t be for any Darwinian failure to adapt to their environment, but because of this absurd belief that drives a market.

Tourism is one of the only defenses for the rhino. Tourism produces resources that can be used to help protect the rhino, and tourism companies are among the few defenders of the beleaguered rhinos.

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