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The rhino poaching crisis: Is de-horning the answer?

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A zoo in the Czech Republic has begun to de-horn their white rhinos to protect them from poachers.

Dvur Kralove Zoo claims that the process is not painful, and that it is intended to deter poachers from killing rhinos for their valuable horns.

The decision comes as a result of a rise in poaching numbers worldwide, but specifically in response to an incident at a zoo in France just this month. 

The process of de-horning a rhino is costly and is a risk to the animal because it must be sedated to undergo the procedure. Even after being de-horned, if security for the park is not beefed up the rhino could still be poached while the horn is re-growing.

It´s by no means a cheap undertaking for zoos: de-horning must be done every one to two years, and every time sedating and removing the horn can cost over £800.

This certainly is not the answer to the poaching crisis, but it could at least slow down the rate at which rhinos are being poached and provide the necessary time for a concrete solution to be put in place. In order to save the species, some action needs to be taken because there is simply too little time and too many rhinos being killed that the risk of extinction is high.

Rhinos are among many other species which are victim to the illicit trade worth £15 billion a year.

Leatherback sea turtles, tigers, amur leopards, northern sportive lemurs, and elephants are all regularly killed both legally and illegally for their uses in medicine, food, clothing, decorations, jewellery, and trophies. 

In the US legislation has just been passed to enable hunters to kill bears and wolves while they are in hibernation. While this is an ocean away and the reason for hunting may be different, it´s inhumane to slay an entire family of animals while they are unable to defend themselves.

The same goes for rhinos, which are often killed in a brutal and barbaric fashion, usually left ripped apart and bloody.

Since 2008, 5,940 African rhinos have been illegally killed, and they are now at a critical point. If changes are not made the species will be driven to extinction. This initiative taken by Dvur Kralove Zoo could help to avoid the rise in killings in Europe, but we still have to consider the humaneness of the practice.

Rhinos use their horn for defending territory, fighting, and digging for water, as well as for mating purposes. Without their horn they can experience problems carrying out these tasks, creating a disturbance in their natural lives. In the context of the poaching problem, however, de-horning is a sound temporary option for protecting the species.

In a perfect world everyone would respect such magnificent creatures and poaching would be nothing but a bad dream. Instead we must take drastic measures that we are unsure will even be successful.

This world does not belong to one species alone; it is communal land where animals have their place.These inhumane acts must come to a halt before we throw off the balance of this world.

There are many ways to get involved in the campaign against poaching, whether by signing petitions, making a donation, or by volunteering. Click here to see other ways of getting involved.

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