San Diego Zoo burns rhino horns to send a message to poachers

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park burned rhinoceros horns and other items erroneously thought to have medicinal value Thursday in a demonstration to discourage poaching and wildlife trafficking.

The burning of what could have fetched about $1 million on the black market was meant to send the message that wildlife trafficking will not be tolerated, according to the San Diego Zoo. The products were confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and San Diego Zoo Global hosted the burn. The event is the first of its kind in the U.S.

Zoo officials say more than three rhinos in Africa are being killed for their horns per day on average. The horns are made of keratin, the same material that forms human fingernails and hair, and have no demonstrated pharmaceutical benefits.

That hasn’t slowed demand for supposed remedies that range from cancer treatments to hangover cures, and poaching is reaching unprecedented levels, according to the zoo. In addition, objects made of rhino horn have more recently become a status symbol, a display of success and wealth.

Zoo officials said rhinos have disappeared from the vast majority of Africa, and if the rate of poaching keeps up, rhinos could become extinct within 15 years.

Wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest illegal trade, only behind drugs, weapons and human trafficking. In the past decade, wildlife trafficking has become a multi-billion dollar industry, according to zoo officials.

Categories: Local San Diego News