Horns are of no value, the rhinos are

Horns are of no value, the rhinos are

The burning of such a big pile of horns would help to bust the myth that the rhino horn is a high-value item

Seized rhino horns are seen burning during an event to mark World Rhino Day in Bokakhat near Kaziranga National Park in the northeastern state of Assam, India, September 22, 2021. Credit: Reuters Photo

The burning in public of 2,479 rhino horns stockpiled in the Assam government's treasuries on World Rhino Day on Wednesday has sent out a much-needed message against the poaching of rhinos and the illegal trade in their horns. The Assam government did well to make a demonstration of the fact that the horns are worthless and have no medicinal or commercial value. The horns were confiscated or recovered from poachers and smugglers or collected after the natural death of rhinos over the years. About 95% of the stockpile has been destroyed. Some of the horns will be preserved for scientific studies and for production as evidence in courts where cases of poaching are heard. The horns were burned in an area of the Kaziranga National Park, which is the world’s largest habitat for one-horned rhinos. This is the first time the horns have been destroyed on such a large scale. 

Also read: Assam burns largest stockpile of rhino horns on World Rhino Day to bust black market myths

The burning of such a big pile of horns would help to bust the myth that the rhino horn is a high-value item. It has been claimed that the stockpile may have helped to keep the horn prices high in the illegal market. It would have been most illogical for the government to sell the horns when it rightly maintains that they have none of the properties attributed to them. The rhino horn is actually a mass of compacted hair made of a protein found in human hair too and has no special medicinal value. But it is highly valued in traditional medicine, especially in countries like China and Vietnam, as a cure for certain diseases and as an aphrodisiac. That is why it is much sought after and there is an illicit trade in it.  

While such events may help to create public awareness about the need for conservation, more effective steps are needed to protect endangered wildlife. The poaching of rhinos has come down in Kaziranga Park but there is the need to further strengthen security. The park is home to more than 2,400 rhinos. There are rhinos in Manas and Orang National Parks and the Pobitora Sanctuary. Conservationists have demanded that trained manpower and facilities should be increased in all these parks. They have also called for expediting the construction of an elevated corridor through Kaziranga to enable rhinos and other animals to migrate during floods and to avoid being hit by vehicles on the highway. There are also complaints that Kaziranga Park is shrinking because of soil erosion and some parts of the habitat are facing the threat of degradation due to siltation. All these need to be addressed.