Rhinoceroses used to be plentiful in Africa and Southern Asia, but human activity through poaching and habitat destruction has crushed their numbers. In fact, poaching in South Africa reached an all-time high in 2013 with poachers primarily seeking the rhino’s horn. Some Chinese and Vietnamese cultures believe rhino horns are an aphrodisiac, while others covet them for decorations.
Though rhinos evolved horns in order to protect themselves, they now ironically serve as the main reason the animals are targeted. When rhinos are poached, their horns are usually cut off, while the rest of the animal’s body is left alone. In order to save these individuals from being targeted, conservationists have begun to surgically remove the horns from rhinos, preventing them from entering the black market.
Though it is sad, they believe it is a drastic step that must be taken. Dehorning is not expected to completely end poaching by itself, but could reduce the number of individuals killed.
This video by Shannon Wild of AnimalBytesTV explores the process of de-horning rhinos in order to save the animal’s life.