The Rhino Campaign 2005 -2006
Sponsored by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria



This website has been restored and archived as part of the supplemental reading materials for Bruce Long's seminar series entitled The Conservation of Endangered Species - Preventing the Loss of Our Animal Heritage. Dr. Long has a long history of working on behalf of both wild and domesticated animals. He may be best known for his national campaign promoting a new fashionable round dog bed for an online retailer. His campaign focused on finding a designer bed for your dog and featured both dogs and cats sleeping on a modern pillow pet bed in a gorgeous NYC apartment. He has also been a 4H leader in Wisconsin, and an animal husbandry consultant for the dairy industry.



The Rhino Campaign was sponsored by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. This was their official website for the 2005 -2006 Rhino Campaign.
Content is mainly from the site's 2006 archived pages, along with other outside sources.

EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) Conservation Campaigns

Over the last ten years Europe’s leading zoos and aquariums have worked together in addressing a variety of issues affecting a range of species and habitats. EAZA’s annual conservation campaigns have raised funds and promoted awareness amongst millions of zoo visitors each year, as well as providing the impetus for key regulatory change.

Rhinoceros species have been chosen as the subject of the current campaign, which runs from September 2005 until October 2006. A fundraising target of Euros 350 000 has been set and 100% of the funds raised will be donated to in situ rhinoceros‐conservation projects. Save the Rhino International, a UK‐registered charity, is working jointly with EAZA to develop and run the EAZA Rhino Campaign.

Save the Rhinos! is a campaign organised by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria with the support of Save the Rhino International

Renaud Fulconis
EAZA Rhino Campaign Manager
C/o Save the Rhino International
16 Winchester Walk
London SE1 9AQ
United Kingdom


Foreword by
Leobert E.M. de Boer 
(Chairman, European Association of Zoos and Aquaria)

Foreword by
Nick Lindsay
(Chair, EAZA Rhinoceros Taxon Advisory Group & Chair, “Save the Rhinos”, the EAZA Rhino Campaign 2005/6 Core Group)

Evolutionarily, rhinos are ancient and perhaps archaic species extending back millions of years in geological time. Nonetheless – archaic as they may be – those African and Asian species of rhino that have survived until present times are amazingly vital and impressive creatures. Their recent and rapid decline is purely the result of human interference with nature.

Rhinos have always been extremely popular zoo animals, in the eyes of both visitors and zoo staff. Now that rhinoceroses are directly endangered by extinction, let us mobilise our efforts for the sake of the survival of the last rhinos in the wild. This can be done by participating in Save the Rhinos, the EAZA Rhino Campaign 2005/6.

EAZA has formed a partnership with a UK-based charity, Save the Rhino International, specifically for this Campaign. We are very grateful for the involvement of the Campaign Manager, Renaud Fulconis, who is working closely with the Campaign Core Group and EAZA’s Executive Office. I would also like to thank Save the Rhino and the International Rhino Foundation for their support. It should be stressed that all the funds raised by EAZA members for the Campaign will be granted to the in situ rhino conservation projects described further on these pages.

I sincerely hope that you will join us in our efforts. All together, we can demonstrate our dedication to the conservation of wild species and habitats.

The news in 2005, of the likely extinction of the Northern white rhino and a dramatic reduction in the number of rhinos in Nepal, highlight how vulnerable rhinos across their range continue to be. However, whilst these are tragic events, there is encouraging news in many rhino range states. What is very apparent is that rhinos, wherever they exist, will be vulnerable to environmental change, whether it be human-induced or natural, and to hunting pressure as it seems that the demand for rhino horn will always be with us.

Each campaign that EAZA has run has proved to be extremely successful in achieving their goals and we are very confident, with your support, that Save the Rhinos will continue that tradition. We hope that this website provides you information and inspiration that will be of value in years to come.

The Campaign has been pulled together with excellent support and input from a large number of people and I would like to thank all of those, including the team from Save the Rhino International, Tom Foose and the International Rhino Foundation, the representatives from the African and the Asian Rhino Specialist Groups and members of the Rhino TAG Committee and Advisors.

I would like to thank you for visiting this website. Welcome to Save the Rhinos, the 2005/2006 EAZA Campaign!



The Evolution of the Rhinoceros

by Frédéric Lacombat


Rhinos can be traced back over some 50 million years, with a complex series of evolutionary paths throughout a sequence of geologic or evolutionary epochs (the term scientists use for these periods of time). These epochs are all part of the Cenozoic Era, known as the Age of Mammals, and include:


Epoque Began
Paleocene ~65 million years ago
Eocene ~58 million years ago
Oligocene ~37 million years ago
Miocene ~23 million years ago
Pliocene ~5 million years ago
Pleistocene ~ 2 million years ago
Holocene or Recent ~ 100 thousand years ago

All rhinoceroses belong to the mammalian order, Perissodactyla (from the Greek perissos, meaning numbers odd, and daktulos, meaning a finger or toe). In other words, they are all odd-toed ungulates (ungulates meaning hoofed-animals), with the axis of symmetry of the foot passing through the central toe, a characteristic also known as mesaxonic. Other Perissodactyla include horses and tapirs, and their evolution began during the early Paleocene,or possibly even earlier in the late Cretaceous.

In contrast, Artiodactyla (bovids, cervids, suids etc.) are even-toed, or paraxonic, with the axis of symmetry of the foot passing between the third and the fourth digit. Both Perissodactyle and Artiodactyle are Unguligrades: they walk on the terminal enlarged phalange, which forms a hoof.

Rhinoceroses were a very diverse and abundant family of mammals and were the largest terrestrial mammals on all the northern continents from about 35 to about 20 million years ago. During this time they ranged over all ecosystems and exhibited a wide range of behaviour, with many different size and morphological adaptations.

 Paleontological history

The earliest known rhinoceros-like mammal is the Hyrachyus eximus, dating from Early Eocene, and which was found in North America. This small animal resembled early tapirs and horses, and had no horn. Horns only became a defining characteristic later in rhinos’ evolutionary history, with the appearance of Rhinocerotidae family in the late Eocene.

In fact three families evolved in the late Eocene: the Hyracodontidae or running rhinos; the Amynodontidae or aquatic rhinos; and the Rhinocerotidae, the forefathers of today’s five species of rhino.

The Hyracodontidae, running rhinos, were adapted for speed and ranged in size from small (like todays’ dogs) to horse and even mega-giraffe size (the Indricotheres, discussed below). The hyracodontids flourished from the mid-Eocene until the early Miocene. The second family, the Amynodontidae, was incredibly successful, with the maximum of diversification and dispersal – throughout America and Eurasia – in the late Eocene and early Oligocene. But during the Oligocene the Amynodontidae species declined, with just one hippo-like rhino species surviving until the middle Miocene.

The third family is the Rhinocerotidae, which first appeared in the late Eocene in Eurasia. The earliest species were small in size, with larger species only coming later, and Rhinocerotidae spread to North America. Some 26 different genera are known, but in the early Oligocene a large wave of extinction made all these early genera disappear. They displayed varying characteristics and were able to live in a wide range of habitats, one of the features that may account for their biological success.

For example, the Menoceras occurred in Europe until the early Miocene. It was a pig-sized rhinoceros, with males sporting two horns side-by-side, whereas females had no horns. They evolved locally in several lineages, e.g. Teleoceras, which had short legs, a barrel chest, and a single small nasal horn.

In Asia, Rhinocerotidae appeared during the Oligocene times. The most famous group is the Indricotheres, which included the Paraceratherium, believed to be the largest terrestrial mammal that ever existed. This hornless rhino is evaluated to be almost six metres high and nine metres long. Its weight would have been close to 20 tonnes. It ate leaves from trees with tusk-shaped upper teeth pointing down, while the lower teeth pointed forward.

Asia became the departure point for a big dispersal of all the large mammals from the Miocene to late Pleistocene periods. All the European rhinoceroses were connected to Asian forms. The woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), for example, appeared nearly one million years ago in China. It first arrived in Europe some 600,000 years ago (the oldest fossil record is found in Germany), and probably re-entered with a second migration wave around 200,000 years ago, together with the woolly mammoth, when it became common in Europe. This rhino was a large genus, with morphological adaptations to live in steppic land (sub-hypsodont teeth) and a cold and dry climate, the most distinctive of which was the thick coat of long brown hair (like that of woolly mammoths), and a body septum separated the nasal bone in two parts, to warm the air easily). This two-horned rhino was hunted and drawn in caves by the early humans in the Ice Age. Like the woolly mammoth, the woolly rhino became extinct about 10,000 years ago, probably due to over-hunting by the early humans.

Another Asian species was the well-known Elasmotherium, the giant unicorn rhinoceros. It was two metres high and five metres long, and is estimated to have weighed nearly five tonnes. It had a single and enormous horn, hypsodont teeth with wrinkled enamel, and its long legs designed for running gave it a horse-like behaviour. Its habitat was similar to that of the woolly rhino. It seems this rhino became extinct around 10,000 years ago.

Rhinocerotidae only arrived in Africa from Asia in the early Miocene, with genera such as Brachypotherium and Chilotheridium. They evolved in Africa until the next exchange with Asia in the Late Miocene. The last species of Brachypotherium of Africa evolved at the beginning of Pliocene.

In Europe, the genus Ronzontherium is the first Rhinocerotidae known from the very end of Eocene and early Oligocene. Several species of it were found in western and eastern Europe, with Protoceratherium and Menoceras being the most important genera found in late Oligocene and early Miocene. In middle Pliocene, the genus Stephanorhinus ranged over all of Europe, coming in several migration waves from Asia. This genus, confused for a time with Dicerorhinus, experienced a large dispersal throughout Eurasia until it disappeared some 12,000 years ago. At the end of Middle Pleistocene and in Late Pleistocene some species of Stephanorhinus were found together with the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis).

The evolution of today’s five species of rhino

Since the end of Miocene, Rhinocerotidae have been on the decline, probably triggered by changes in climatic conditions. Numerous species became extinct, and rhinos no longer survive in Europe (since about 12,000 years ago) or America (since about four million years ago).

The five species found today (white, black, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan) come from different lineages. The Sumatran rhino is thought to be the oldest and the most archaic form. As far as we can tell (fossil records with radioactive dating disagree with molecular DNA clocks), the five modern species probably originated at these approximate times in the past:

Sumatran 15+ million years ago
Black 4-10 million years ago
White 2-5 million years ago
Greater one-horned 2-4 million years ago
Javan 2-4 million years ago

Morphological characters of the Rhinocerotidae

The rhinoceros has a massive body and a large head with one or two horns, depending upon the species, placed in the middle of the frontal or nasal bone of the skull. The horn has a dermal origin. It is composed of compressed fibrous keratin. Rhinoceroses have a very elongated skull, which is elevated in the occipital part. They have a small braincase, and the nasal bone is clearly projected forward, beyond the premaxillae bone. Its surface is rough where the insertion of the horn takes place.

All the Perissodactyla, especially rhinoceroses, have or had lophodont teeth, in other words the teeth are formed by two transverse lophs of enamel. The dental formula varies between species. I 0-3/0-3, C 0-1/0-1, P 3-4/3-4, M 3/3 x 2 = 24-44. They could be grazers (eg Elasmotherium), which means their premolars and molars are hypsodont (high crown), or sub-hypsodont (e.g. the woolly rhino, Coelodonta antiquitatis); but most of them are browsers with brachydont teeth (low crown). These characteristics are directly related to the species’ environment. The hypsodont species could eat grass (a very rough food for the enamel), so lived in open habitat. On the contrary, the brachyodont species could only eat soft vegetable (such as leaves); consequently, they live in a more forested environment.


Press Release

Rhinoceros Conservation Campaign

Public event
From July 8, 2006 to July 15, 2006 in France

French zoos are mobilizing to save the rhinoceros by participating in the 5th conservation campaign organized by the European Association of Zoos and 
Aquariums (EAZA). The initiative is unprecedented: it is the first time that the French zoos gather their skills and know-how to develop a week of joint action to raise funds and educate their visitors to the protection of rhinoceros . 

This European conservation campaign aims to raise 350,000 euros to support 13 rhinoceros conservation projects in Africa and Asia. It also wishes to inform visitors to zoos (125 million a year in Europe) of the numerous threats which weigh on the rhinoceros in the nature: disappearance of their habitat,and particularly, illegal hunting. 

There are only 5 species of rhinoceros today: two live in Africa (the black rhinoceros and the white rhinoceros), and three in Asia, the rhinoceros Indian unicorn and Java rhinos and Sumatra. 

Only the white rhino still remains in reasonable numbers. Javan rhinos and Sumatra are close to extinction with less than 400 individuals in total. The total rhinoceros population has decreased from 2 million individuals - all species combined - in the early 19th century to less than 18,000 today.

Their disappearance results not only from the destruction of their habitat, but also, especially from poaching for their horns. Their horns are still very popular because they are part of many remedies of traditional oriental medicine. In addition, in Yemen, they are used to make the handles of "jambiyas", ornamental daggers. Rhinoceros horns are made from keratin, just like our own hair and nails!

 French zoos have decided to get involved in this conservation campaign by organizing various activities during the week of July 8th to 15th, 2006. On the program: games, animations and information boards around the rhinoceros, sale of "rhinos" objects for the exclusive benefit of conservation projects in the natural environment This is an opportunity for visitors to learn a little about this friendly and yet threatened animal, and to participate directly in its protection.


Poaching for luxury products

by Cathy Dean 

Generally speaking, the horn from rhinos killed in East Africa tends to end up in the Yemen, where it is made into ornamental handles for daggers (jambiyas) while horn from rhinos poached in southern Africa (as well as from those poached in Asia) makes its way to the Far East where it is used in traditional medicine. 

Although jambiyas can have handles made of a range of substances, such as precious metals, buffalo or plastic, and can be decorated with gemstones, those made of rhino horn are regarded as the “Rolex” or ‘Porsche” versions. 

Poaching of rhinos for use for jambiyas first became a major problem in the 1970s, when OPEC pushed up oil prices in Saudi Arabia, increasing demand for Yemeni workers, who remitted huge amounts of money back to Yemen, some of which was spent on buying expensive jambiyas. Demand for rhino horn surged, resulting in a major crash in rhino populations. After a few years of some remission in the late 1990s, rhino poaching has again intensified in both Africa and Asia. In Eastern and Central Africa, poaching of both black and southern white (the latter an introduced subspecies) saw a resurgence in Kenya from 2001 and has virtually or actually exterminated the Northern white rhino in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Since 1978 Esmond Martin has studied the illegal trade in rhino horn between East Africa and the Yemen; since 1983 with his colleague Lucy Vigne. Making trips every two years or so, they have monitored the black market in rhino horn, the supply chains, the illegal workshops and the buyers of the finished jambiyas. 

Their most recent trip was in 2002 and their findings are summarised below: 

Almost all rhino horn that entered the Yemen from 1998-2002 originated from rhinos killed in Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the late 1990s there was little recorded poaching in eastern Africa, but in 2002 Kenya experienced the worst poaching for over 12 years. An estimated minimum of 46 rhinos was killed between 1998 and 2002 in these three countries. From this figure, Esmond estimates that the potential weight of rhino horn that may have reached the Yemen to be an average of 29 kilograms per annum. 

Poaching methods are mainly snaring and shooting by rifles. Most horns are smuggled to Djibouti and then by dhow to the Yemeni coast amongst consignments of consumer goods, which are illicitly moved to Sanaa. The price of horn has increased from US $519-650 per kilo when exported from Kenya, to US $750 when it arrives in Djibouti, and US $1,200 per kilo when it reaches Sanaa (2002 figures). The Sanaa US dollar price for horn has remained the same since around 1985. 

In 2002 the number of workshops, where rhino horns are made into traditional dagger (jambiya) handles, was 70 and the number of craftsmen 102. This has increased since 1985 as the population grows. Nearly all handles however are made of water buffalo horn, while the number of new rhino horn handles being made has fallen significantly. This is mainly due to the shortage of rhino horn on the market. 

In 2002 the Yemeni government brought in proper legislation to implement CITES’ ban on the rhino horn trade, and has expanded its staff involved in wildlife conservation at the upgraded Environment Protection Agency. 

Rhinos are not the only animals poached for products that are regarded as luxury items. Elephants are killed for their ivory; gorillas for their hands which are used to make grotesque ashtrays; snow leopards for their skins; birds of paradise for their plumes. These are just some of the many, many examples. 

(With thanks to Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne for their supporting information.) 


Rhino hunting

by Richard Emslie

As can be expected, the use of hunting as a conservation tool generates much debate. This is primarily due to philosophical differences of opinion on:

  • whether it is right to kill individual animals to further overall conservation objectives for the greater good of a population or species

  • whether one supports the principle of sustainably using wildlife and resources to generate revenue to help fund conservation management programmes and to create positive economic incentives to encourage the private sector and communities to conserve wildlife and habitats

Southern white rhino hunting
Limited hunting of Southern white rhino has been undertaken since 1968. This has clearly been sustainable because, since hunting began, numbers of Southern white rhino have increased from 1,800 to 11,100 in the wild, with a further 740 in captivity worldwide. This has helped give white rhinos an economic value and increased the incentives for the private sector and communities to conserve white rhino. By 2003, 3,250 of Africa’s southern white rhino were privately owned and the limited hunting in part contributed to this large expansion of rhino range. However, it is interesting that on the whole, live sale prices have been higher for breeding females than for old, potentially trophy males indicating the desire of the private sector primarily to breed up rhino. 

Most Southern white rhino occur in fenced reserves and parks and, even though in some cases these are large areas (a few hundred km2 to a couple of thousand km2), the fence acts to prevent sub-adult dispersal, which is a natural white rhino population regulation mechanism. If left untouched, eventually densities of white rhino can build up to such a level that density-dependent population regulation can kick in and rhino performance declines. In addition, such large long-lived mega-herbivores also have the potential to overshoot carrying capacity. As a result, the prevention of dispersal by fences may result in grazing levels becoming unnaturally high, and helping cause negative habitat changes for the rhinos (bush encroachment). If this occurs, the long-term potential of an area to carry white rhino will be reduced, and the rhinos will be more susceptible to die during droughts. As a result of these problems, management agencies capture and remove surplus white rhino to prevent densities getting to these unnaturally high levels. 

The vast majority of white rhinos that are translocated are used to set up new breeding populations. However, since 1968 a limited number of surplus older animals (usually males) have been hunted annually in the major range state, South Africa and, to a much lesser extent, in Namibia. The total number of white rhinos hunted annually currently represents less than 0.5% of the total number of white rhinos in the wild, and hunting is controlled through permits issued by the formal conservation agencies. 

While many white rhinos have been donated to restock other state conservation areas, the majority of rhinos that have gone to the private sector have been sold at market-related prices. The major supplier of surplus rhinos has been the state conservation areas and these live sales have significantly contributed to the overall cost of conservation in some rhino areas, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This additional income has been especially important as government grants for conservation have been declining in real terms and these rhino sales have helped make up some of the shortfall. Successful rhino conservation and management is not cheap. A further spin-off is that putting a value on the wildlife (live sales, limited hunting together with the promotion of eco-tourism) has made it easier for conservationists to argue to local politicians that conservation is a valid economic form of land use and not just a “waste of land.” 

Black rhino hunting
The 13th Conference of the Parties (CoP13) of the Convention in Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) from 2-14 October 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand also recently approved quota applications by Namibia and South Africa each to sport hunt five surplus male black rhinos per year. 

At first glance, it seems inconceivable that anyone would want to hunt Vulnerable (Namibia) and Critically Endangered (South Africa) subspecies of black rhino when so much effort is going into protecting these animals and breeding them up as rapidly as possible. 

The surplus male problem
The problem of surplus black rhino males is not new and has been discussed as far back as 1992. It is primarily the result of some black rhino populations ending up with markedly skewed sex ratios in favour of males. These skewed sex ratios can occur either by chance in some populations (with many more males than females being born in a population), or if removals from donor populations are biased in favour of females (as was the case in setting up the highly productive Namibian custodianship populations). The problem is compounded by an apparent slightly skewed sex ratio at birth in favour of males, although this is often later reversed because of the higher adult male mortality rates due to fighting. 

The social carrying capacity of adult male black rhinos is also limited. If no action is taken in markedly male-biased populations, fight-related mortalities are likely to increase once these surplus males grow up. If surplus males killed only other males then perhaps they could just be left to fight it out and let natural selection take its course. However, conservationists have expressed concern that in such populations, valuable breeding females and calves may be injured or even killed as well as other males, as appeared to have been the case in Pilanesberg National Park in the past. 

Surplus males also use valuable food resources that may affect female breeding performance. Although not yet conclusive, preliminary evidence from annual SADC Rhino Management Group status reporting suggests that female reproductive success may also be slightly higher in populations with a higher proportion of adult females to males. Thus many field managers in southern Africa have for some time now sought to find a way to reduce the number of surplus males in such populations. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the hunting of a limited number of surplus males may end up stimulating metapopulation growth rates and hence overall rhino numbers. 

Only some populations have a surplus male problem. Owners or management agencies conserving populations that end up with skewed sex ratios in favour of females over males are invariably happy for this to remain the case as long as possible, as percentage growth rates and calving production will be higher. This is similar to productive cattle farming, where the number of bulls in a herd is limited to maintain rapid population breeding rates. Managers of such female-skewed black rhino populations are simply not keen to accept males. 

The corollary is that while populations that end up with markedly skewed sex ratios in favour of males usually want to obtain more females, sourcing additional females is very difficult. Many donor populations, not unexpectedly, are loath to provide females only, as this would negatively affect the donor population’s sex structure and potential future performance. In practice, it is hard for the populations that have by chance ended up with more males to source and obtain additional females. 

It is also known that specific rhino males can dominate the breeding and sire a large proportion of the calves in smaller populations. The removal of such animals after a period of say 10–15 years may therefore reduce the risk of father–daughter matings and contribute positively to the genetic management of such populations, in the same way that a cattle farmer is unlikely to keep the same breeding bull for an extended period. In addition, the hunting of an old post-reproductive male that has been pushed out of his territory will not affect his contribution to the gene pool of that population. 

Attempted solutions to the surplus male problem 
A number of alternatives to hunting surplus males have been tried over the years including sending them to zoos, attempting to sell surplus males, and creating male-only populations in reserves that are too small to hold breeding populations. This last approach has not been particularly successful or popular. For example, in Makasa, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, a bull in a small male-only population killed the other two males. For the approach to have a better chance of success, it is recommended that males that “know” each other be introduced together. 

Attempts to exchange or introduce adult males to bring in new blood to populations have also not had much success, with the result that it is recommended that adult females be introduced instead. 

The argument that surplus males can be used to “test” potential new areas for reintroduction also has limited applicability. This is because breeding females need to be on a higher nutritional plane than males successfully to conceive and raise calves at a rapid rate. A “survival” diet for a small number of male rhinos is not the same as a diet for optimal breeding. Therefore, the mere fact that a few surplus males survive in a new area is no guarantee that females will breed well if introduced (which in the process will raise stocking rates higher). 

In addition, mortality risks when setting up new populations appear to be reduced if founder animals are introduced at the same time. Concerns have been expressed by some that if males-only populations were to be established, and females introduced at a much later date, mortality rates of females following introduction may increase. If an area is big enough to set up a breeding population of black rhinos, ideally one should proceed straight to setting up the breeding population and not start with males only. If one starts with males, the problem remains of sourcing more females than males in future. 

Demand for surplus males has been limited, and as a result these males have not generated much revenue to help fund conservation. Live males auctioned in KwaZulu-Natal in 2004 fetched an average price of US $21,130. 

Declining budgets for conservation 
The reality facing many conservation management agencies in Africa is that their budgets have been declining in real terms. Successful rhino management is also expensive, requiring concentrated field protection and law enforcement, running of intelligence networks, monitoring, maintenance of fences and waterholes, and biological management (including translocating groups of surplus rhino to set up new breeding populations). These activities are required to increase rapidly the numbers of black rhinos in national metapopulations and meet national metapopulation goals. Intensively managing and successfully protecting rhino populations can cost as much as US $1,000 per km2. 

Given the high cost of successful rhino conservation, the demonstrated sustainability of southern white rhino hunting, and the fact that other attempts to deal with the surplus male problem have met with limited success and generated little revenue to help fund conservation, it was to be expected that proposals to hunt surplus male black rhino would eventually emerge. Indeed, the possibility of starting hunting has been discussed for a number of years in the SADC Rhino Management Group. A number of conservation agencies in southern Africa had suggested that such a move could be a win-win strategy; solving the surplus male problem while at the same time generating additional much-needed income to help fund necessary field conservation efforts. It has been estimated that a black rhino trophy hunt might fetch about US $200,000, almost 10 times the current live price. It is expected that this would create a positive economic incentive for the private sector and communities to conserve black rhinos. The live value of black rhinos is also likely to increase, which will most benefit the state conservation agencies with surplus breeding animals. 

Proponents of limited hunting argued at CITES that hunting such a small number of such surplus males will not lead to a reduction in overall rhino numbers, but for the reasons outlined above rather could contribute to improving population growth rates. They also have noted that the combined number of black rhinos now in Namibia and South Africa (2,530) is now greater than the number of Southern white rhinos when hunting started in South Africa in 1968 (1,800). 

In Namibia all black rhinos belong to the state. Thus Namibia’s Ministry of the Environment and Tourism would decide which specific surplus males would be hunted. It was explained that many individual rhinos in Namibia are individually known, enabling the Ministry to target specific surplus male animals. Namibia also indicated it would hunt only adult male black rhinos. The Namibian representative committed that 100% of all proceeds from any black rhino hunted on communal conservancy land would be made available for use in conservation programmes by respective community conservancies through the Namibian Game Products Trust Fund, thereby proposing a mechanism whereby communities that did not own the rhinos, but had successfully conserved them, would benefit directly from the hunting. The largest community-managed black rhino population in Africa occurs in Namibia, and it was explained that communal land representatives have shown high interest in this scheme. At CoP 13, Namibia stated that it was keen to increase benefits to communities. 

Speculation about the impact of these decisions on poaching
There has been some speculation in the press that the decisions at the recent CITES CoP to allow the annual hunting of 10 black rhino will send a message to poachers and perhaps lead to an upsurge in rhino poaching and widespread slaughter of rhino. It is perhaps worth pointing out that in general trade experts do not feel that this argument is credible. In part, this is because as far as the illegal end-user markets are concerned, there is no major distinction between black and white rhino horn when making dagger handles, or when horn is used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The main difference is between how Asian rhino horn is viewed, valued and used compared with African horn. The annual export of 10 black rhino trophies will in effect simply add to the existing export of around 40 to 70 odd Southern white rhino trophies per year. If the controlled export of a few black rhino hunting trophies were going to stimulate rhino poaching, one would have expected this to happen long before in response to the ongoing export of white rhino trophies. 

Trade experts also point out that the dynamics of the controlled export of a limited number of marked and CITES-permitted hunting trophies are not the same as the illegal killing of rhinos in an attempt to supply an illegal demand for rhino horn to make dagger handles and to use in TCM. Had CITES CoP 13 approved the reopening of a legal rhino horn trade (which it did not) this would have been a very different matter. 



Poaching for traditional Chinese medicine

by Richard Ellis

ry this: Ask the person next to you what he or she thinks rhino horn might be used for in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Chances are, they’ll tell you it is used as an aphrodisiac. It is not. In certain Asian countries, ground rhino horn is used to cure almost everything but impotence and sexual inadequacy. In Bernard Read’s translation of the 1597 Chinese materia medica “Pen Ts’ao Kang Mu”, the complete section on rhinoceros horn (“the best is from a freshly killed male animal”) reads as follows, with no mention of any aphrodisiac qualities: 

“It should not be taken by pregnant women; it will kill the foetus. As an antidote to poisons (in Europe it was said to fall to pieces if poison were poured into it). To cure devil possession and keep away all evil spirits and miasmas. For gelsemium [jasmine] and snake poisoning. To remove hallucinations and bewitching nightmares. Continuous administration lightens the body and makes one very robust. For typhoid, headache, and feverish colds. For carbuncles and boils full of pus. For intermittent fevers with delirium. To expel fear and anxiety, to calm the liver and clear the vision. It is a sedative to the viscera, a tonic, antipyretic. It dissolves phlegm. It is an antidote to the evil miasma of hill streams. For infantile convulsions and dysentery. Ashed and taken with water to treat violent vomiting, food poisoning, and overdosage of poisonous drugs. For arthritis, melancholia, loss of the voice. Ground up into a paste with water it is given for hematemesis [throat hemorrhage], epistaxis [nosebleeds], rectal bleeding, heavy smallpox, etc. 

Because it was believed to provide such a pharmacological bounty, it is perhaps superfluous for rhino horn also to serve as a love potion. How then did rhino horn acquire its aphrodisiacal reputation? Probably from Western writers who had only a passing acquaintance with Chinese traditional medicine. One such was J.A. Hunter, (who was reputed to have shot more than a thousand rhinos, see the article on Habitat Loss in this Information Pack) who, in 1952, wrote: 

“The horns are worth thirty shillings a pound or more – ten shillings more than the finest grade of ivory. These horns are used for a curious purpose. Orientals consider them a powerful aphrodisiac and there is an unlimited demand for them in India and Arabia. No doubt any man who has a harem of thirty or more beautiful women occasionally feels the need for a little artificial stimulant.” 

Hunter tried it himself, but perhaps because he was alone, it did not work. “I closely followed the recipe given me by an Indian trader,” he wrote. “Take about one square inch of rhino horn, file it into a powder form, put it in a muslin bag like a tea bag, and boil it in a cup of water until the water turns dark brown. I took several doses of the concoction but regret to report that I felt no effects. Possibly I lacked faith. It is also possible that a man in the bush, surrounded by nothing by rhinos and native scouts, does not receive the proper inspiration to make the dose effective.” 

In his 1962 study of the animals of East Africa, C.A. Spinage seemed to share the belief that Asians were interested in the horn as an aphrodisiac and were willing to pay handsomely for it: “On account of mysterious aphrodisiac properties attributed to the horn by certain Asiatic peoples, the Rhino has been sorely persecuted… With its horn fetching the present high price the prospects of its continued survival in the face of the poachers’ onslaught are not very bright.” The anthropologist Louis Leakey also shared this misunderstanding. In his 1969 book on African wildlife, he commented that rhinos were “in grave danger from poachers because rhino horn commands a high price in the Far East, where it is rated as an aphrodisiac.” And in S.O.S. Rhino, C.A.W. Guggisberg asserted that: “The superstition that has done more harm to the rhinoceros family than all others is undoubtedly the Chinese belief in the powerful aphrodisiac properties of the horns. Through the centuries untold generations of aged gentlemen have been imbibing powdered rhino horn in some appropriate drink, hoping to feel like a twenty-year-old when next entering the harem!” 

Even without aphrodisiacal properties, however, rhino horn is one of the mainstays of TCM, and its collection has been responsible for the death of tens of thousands of rhinos around the world. Make no mistake: those people who use rhino horn to cure medical ailments really believe it works. That’s what drives up the demand on which the poachers thrive. As Ann and Steve Toon commented in 2002, “For practitioners of traditional Asian medicine, rhino horn is not perceived as a frivolous love potion, but as an irreplaceable pharmaceutical necessity.” And Eric Dinerstein (2003), concurs: “In fact, traditional Chinese medicine never has used rhinoceros horn as an aphrodisiac: this is a myth of the Western media and in some parts of Asia is viewed as a kind of anti-Chinese hysteria.” 

Rhino horn has been an integral component of TCM for thousands of years. It matters little where the rhinos come from; the horn of a rhinoceros from any continent may be used for medical purposes. In East Africa – primarily Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania – statistics on rhino horn harvesting have been kept since 1926. Over this period, most of the rhinos killed were black rhinos, although the “harvesters” would not pass up a white rhino if it appeared in their gunsights. During the 1930s, according to Nigel Leader-Williams (1992), declared exports from East Africa (then under British rule) averaged about 1,600 kilograms (3,520 pounds) per year, which meant the death of some 555 black rhinos annually. During World War II, the numbers soared to 2,500 kilograms (5,500 pounds), for which approximately 860 rhinos died each year. During the 1950s and 1960s, the auction houses reported about 1,800 kilograms (3,960 pounds) per year; which would have entailed the death of about 600 rhinos every year in that period. In the 1970s, the numbers skyrocketed again, to 3,400 kilograms (7,480 pounds), and every year in that decade, 1,180 rhinos died. Leader-Williams (now Professor of Biodiversity Management of the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent) identifies the Far East’s primary consuming nations as Hong Kong (which was separate from the People’s Republic of China until 1997), mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah Malaysia, Brunei, Macau, and Thailand, while the major Asian importers of African rhino horn were, not surprisingly, the first three on this list – mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, Hong Kong was the world’s largest importer of rhino horn. Although the government officially banned all imports in 1979, rhino horn was smuggled in from Macao, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Taiwan, and South Africa. At the 1987 CITES meeting in Ottawa, participating parties agreed to abate the rhino crisis by closing down the trade in rhino products completely. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher promised the ban would take effect later that year. This never happened in an effective way, of course, but there were suggestions that substitutes for actual rhino parts might suffice for TCM. Scientists at the China Pharmacological Institute proposed using buffalo horn (made of keratin, as are rhino horns), and the manager of China’s National Health Medicines Products said that all their new medicines now used buffalo horn instead of rhino horn. In the section on “Heat-clearing, blood-cooling medicinals” in Wiseman and Ellis’s 1996 “Fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine”, we find the admission that all those rhinos didn’t have to be killed at all. After a list of all the symptoms that rhinoceros horn can alleviate, there is this note: “The rhinoceros is an endangered species. Please use water buffalo horn as a substitute.” 

Taiwanese self-made millionaires are notorious for their conspicuous consumption of rare and exotic wildlife, and the Chinese traditional adage that animals exist primarily for exploitation is nowhere more pronounced than on Taiwan. Most of the rhino horn for sale there comes from South Africa. The demand for Asian horn in particular is increasing and wealthy Taiwanese, aware that prices will rise even higher as rhinoceros numbers decline, are buying it as an investment. In those regions where rhino horn products are dispensed – legally or illegally – the most popular medicines are used for tranquilisers, for relieving dizziness, building energy, nourishing the blood, curing laryngitis, or simply, as the old snake-oil salesmen would have it, “Curing whatever ails you.” 

Keratin – the major protein components of hair, wool, nails, horn, hoofs and the quills of feathers – in rhinoceros horn is chemically complex and contains large quantities of sulphur-containing amino acids, particularly cysteine, but also tyrosine, histidine, lysine, and arginine, and the salts calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate. Rhino horns are composed primarily of keratin, but so too are rhino nails. Three to a foot, for a grand total of twelve per rhino, the nails can also be shaved or powdered for pharmaceuticals. You cannot carve a jambiya handle from a toenail, but shaved or powdered rhinoceros keratin, with all its believed powers, might be beneficial regardless of which part of the rhino it comes from. 

The scarcity of rhinos today, and the corresponding intermittent availability of rhino horn only drives the price higher, and intensifies the pressure on the declining rhino populations. For people whose annual income is often far below the subsistence level, the opportunity to change one’s life by killing a large, ungainly, and otherwise seemingly “useless” animal must be overwhelming. How much is rhino horn worth? In Nowak’s revision of “Walker’s Mammals of the World”, we read: 

“R. unicornis is jeopardized by loss of habitat to the expanding human population and illegal killing, especially in response to the astonishing rise in the value of the horn. The wholesale value of Asian rhino horn increased from US $35 per kg [2.2 pounds] in 1972 to $9,000 per kilogram in the mid-1980s. The retail price, after the horn has been shaved or powdered for sale, has at times in certain East Asian markets reached $20,000-$30,000 per kilo. In contrast, in May 1990, pure gold was worth about $13,000 per kilo.” 

(NB: Please also refer to the article on Poaching for luxury products in this Section for further details of the value of rhino horn.) 

Throughout those markets, the trade in rhino horn for medicinal purposes is a very big business, but because much of it is conducted through various black markets, its true magnitude may never be known. 

The Taiwanese make up much of the market for horn imported to Asia from South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe – wherever black rhinos can still be found. Like the Taiwanese, many Koreans are devoted practitioners of traditional medical arts, and are prepared to import substantial amounts of substances not naturally found in their country. Korean traditional medicine is based on the Chinese version, which is said to have come to Korea during the sixth century. “Rhinoceros horn,” wrote Judy Mills in 1993, “is an ingredient in five… medicines still popular among doctors of Oriental medicine in Korea today. These rhinoceros horn derivatives are used to treat maladies including stroke, nosebleeds, dermatitis, headache, facial paralysis, high blood pressure, and coma. The most popular of these medicines is Woo Hwang Chang Shim Won, a medicine ball made from rhinoceros horn, musk, cow gallstones, and a number of herbs.” In 1992, after the US government threatened to impose sanctions via the Pelly Amendment on South Korea for failure to police the trade in rhino horn, the price of rhino horn in South Korea doubled. Among the some 7,000 doctors licensed to practice Korean medicine in South Korea (no figures are available for North Korea), there was little diminution of prescriptions written for Woo Hwang Chang Shim Won after 1992. In fact, it is not clear that the use of rhino horn for medicinal purposes has decreased at all. 

Indeed, it is not clear that rhino horn serves any medicinal purpose whatsoever, but it is a testimony to the power of tradition that millions of people believe that it does. Of course, if people want to believe in prayer, acupuncture or voodoo as a cure for what ails them, there is no reason why they shouldn’t, but if animals are being killed to provide nostrums that have been shown to be useless, then there is a very good reason to curtail the use of rhino horn. There are five species of rhinoceros, and with the exception of one subspecies of the African white rhino, all are in danger of being hunted to extinction for their horns. Rhinos as we know them have been around for millions of years, but Dr H. Sapiens has created a predicament from which they might never recover. It is heartbreaking to realise that the world’s rhinos are being eliminated from the face of the earth in the name of medications that probably don’t work. 


A legal trade in rhino horn?

by Cathy Dean and Jake Veasey

The Rhinocerotidae were possibly the most diverse group of mammalian megaherbivores to have existed. Their collective population decline in more recent years has been caused by the poaching of rhino for their horn. In an attempt to stem the decline in wild rhino populations, an international ban prohibiting its trade was initiated in 1976. The ban contributed to massive prices increases in horn during the 1970s and 1980s, which subsequently increased the incentive to poach rhino, in turn leading to accelerated declines in rhino numbers. The black rhino suffered its most significant declines in the years after the trade ban. Most rhino states have inadequate funds to protect their rhino in the light of such strong poaching pressure, and as a result, rhino populations in many areas continue to decline. 

The arguments in favour of legalising the trade in rhino horn
The illegality of the horn trade has denied rhino states the right to manage their rhino such that funds can be made available for protecting wild populations and thus stemming the dramatic population decline. The depletion of the world’s rhino can, it is argued, only be realistically halted by international and national political measures that result in a decline in the price of rhino horn and an increase in the funds available for the protecting of wild rhino. These joint goals could be achieved most effectively by the instigation of a strictly regulated trade in rhino horn (in practice, only that derived from the African species), with the profits being reinvested in rhino protection: in short, giving African nations ownership of their rhino resources. 

It is further suggested that by instigating a regulated trade in rhino horn, the incidence of poaching would decline. This would occur as a result of:

  • a reduction in the global price of rhino horn, leading to a reduction in the incentive to poach for both African and Asian species

  • regular dehorning would result in fewer large specimens of horn being available, which when combined with an increase in resources for anti-poaching patrols, would dramatically reduce the incentive to poach and this the illegal killing of rhino

  • the increased incentive to protect rhino, due to the profits they would be capable of generating

Other outcomes might include surplus black and white male rhinos in South Africa and Namibia no longer being culled or sold for sport hunting, as the funds for translocations would be provided by business people willing to invest in farming rhinos for their horn. Furthermore, a rhino could generate a regular income throughout its life, whereas if sold for sport, can only provide a one-off return. 

Until now, the means by which such a trade could be regulated have been elusive, but with the advent of chemical forensic fingerprinting, such that the origin and date of purchase of the horn can be encoded onto the horn. This can also be detected in derivative products, making the identification of illegal horn now possible. A central selling organisation would be required to be established in order to regulate prices. 

The flux of horn on the market maintained at considerably lower prices than illegal horn would encourage stockpilers to sell their horn before prices drop further, thus flooding the market and subsequently further reducing the poaching pressure on wild rhino. It has been suggested that stockpilers are banking on the extinction of rhino to boost their investments. However, stockpilers could be given the option to sell their horn to the newly established central selling organisation, such that this horn can be added to the legal stockpile and released on the market in a more controlled manner. 

Legalisation of the horn trade would take control of the trade away from the criminal syndicates that presently run it, allowing the trade to be monitored more effectively, and run for the benefit of rhinos rather than horn traders. 

The arguments against legalising the trade in rhino horn
On the converse, if is often argued that allowing a legal trade in rhino horn would create as many problems as it would solve. 

Chief among these are the risks to the rhinos themselves in the collection of the horn. Although removing the horn is, in itself, as simple as cutting fingernails, rhinos must be tranquillised for the procedure to be carried out. Despite the advances in chemical immobilisation, tranquillisation of rhino always carries a risk, not just from the use of the drugs, but also because there is a danger that rhinos may become killed or injured as they succumb to the tranquillising agent, for example by falling into a waterhole or stumbling into a ravine. Additional concerns have been raised over the inhibitory effects of tranquilisation on rhino reproduction. 

A common question is whether rhinos actually need, or use their horns. As explained in the descriptions of the five species, Asian rhinos use their incisor teeth rather than their horns to fight each other, but the African rhinos do use their horns and can inflict serious injuries. There is evidence to suggest that, with up to 33% of female black rhinos actually being killed by intra-specific fighting, dehorning might seem worthwhile just to reduce fighting-related mortality! However, limited studies have also shown that dehorned black rhino may be less able to defend calves from predators such as hyena or lion (and tigers in Asia), while rhinos of all species are known to use their horns to push obstacles out of their way, and to protect their faces and eyes from thick undergrowth. 

It could also be argued that, given the low starting point of rhino populations, even a legal trade in rhino horn could not satisfy the demand for horn, and that poachers would continue to kill rhinos from National Parks or places not practising rhino horn “farming”, and find it easier to export than they are currently able. 

Conservationists may also find it difficult adequately to explain why some people are allowed to dehorn rhinos (albeit without involving the death of the animal) and profit from that, while others may not. Those able to participate in the scheme would tend to be larger, commercial landowners, or those involved in communal area conservancies, such as in Namibia and Zimbabwe. The gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” might apply not just to the rhinos (with or without their horns) but also to local communities. 

Possibly the biggest argument against this trade would be concerns over the management of it, and the practicalities of ensuring the trade is managed effectively for the benefit of rhinos, rather than corrupt officials in both range states and areas where horn is traded. 



Dear Visitor!

Whether you are a student browsing through the net in search for fun or information, a ZOO manager or any other person using the Internet, the website is here exactly for you. Already the fact that you are visiting it helps us in our efforts to promote the conservation of rhinos. We hope you will find the information on rhinos we provide here useful.

Like our previous campaigns, Save the rhinos! also aims at co-funding some conservation projects in the field (see "supported projects"). You can make a contribution via one of the participating ZOOs or by sending us a cheque in euros or pounds. Please note that 100% of the funds we will collect during the campaign will go to financing rhino conservation projects.

How to help?



Make cheques (euro or sterling) payable to: "EAZA Rhino Campaign"
Send to: 
FAO: Renaud Fulconis
EAZA Rhino Campaign Manager
C/o Save the Rhino International
16 Winchester Walk
London SE1 9AQ
United Kingdom


Talk to your friends and family about the campaign, let them know about the dangers that rhinos are facing in the wild and invite them to visit this website.


When visiting a zoo involved in the campaign, buy in the shop any of the fantastic items that have been specially designed.


Giving money is a fantastic way to help as this can be used immediately in the field for paying salaries, food, petrol, aerial surveys, translocations of rhinos... But our supported projects are also looking for items that have been listed below. You may be happy to donate one of these items that can be second hand as long as it is in full working order:

  • 10x50 binoculars
  • Telescopes
  • Simple digital cameras
  • Compact Flash memory card
  • Small handsets
  • GPS
  • AA battery chargers
  • Slide projectors
  • LCD projectors
  • VCD/DVD players
  • Garage tools like spanners, screwdrivers
  • Backpacks
  • Sleeping bags
  • Mattresses


Your school can Save the Rhinos!

Are you a biology teacher, who is keen to get your classes involved in conservation efforts in Africa and Asia? Are you an art or graphic design teacher, who needs an exciting project for your class to work on? Are you on a school charity committee, looking for a worthwhile cause to support? Or a student, looking for ideas for a great animal project that you can do on your own or with your mates?

If the answer to any of the above is ?Yes?, then we have the solution