rhino nails Archives - Rhino Review

Qotw: Can toenails replace rhino horn?

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The Naked Scientists | September 24, 2019

See link for audio of article.


John asks: “I’d like to know if enough people in the world donated their finger and toenail clippings, could enough keratin be produced to satisfy the demand and thus stop the poaching of wild animals in Africa?”


Mariana Marasoiu put this to Jon Taylor, Deputy Director for Save the Rhino, and Simon Hughes, former WCS’s Elephant Coordinator, to get an answer to a nail biting question…

Mariana – Keratin is the substance that makes up most of our hair and nails, but it’s also the substance that makes up rhino horn. This is different though from elephant tusks, which are just very long teeth. Their horn is the main reason for why rhinos are under threat from poaching, and unfortunately they are killed illegally in Asia as well as Africa.

We asked a couple of experts to help us answer this question.

Jon Taylor from Save the Rhino International, a large wildlife conservation organisation that works to protect rhinos from threats such as poaching and habitat loss, explained that we first need to understand why people use rhino horn.

Jon – The demand for rhino horn is based on many factors, of which its chemical composition comes some way down the list. In Vietnam, the owning or giving of rhino horn is seen as a status symbol by some people. Being able to obtain such an expensive and elusive item is thought to be an indication of one’s wealth, power and influence. Research has shown that artificial substitutes or even horns from captive rhinos are not seen as having the same panache – certainly presenting one’s boss with a box of other people’s toenail clippings would not have the same impact.

Mariana – I also spoke with Simon Hedges, who works at Asian Arks on creating protected areas for wildlife in Asia. He mentioned that introducing substitutes to rhino horn might in fact have negative consequences.

Simon – Selling alternatives to wild rhino horn such as synthetic rhino horn (which has also been proposed) or keratin from human nails undermines vital efforts to reduce the demand for rhino horn in Asia. This is because actively marketing the alternatives would help legitimize the demand for and consumption of rhino horn products, including premium wild-sourced products.

Mariana – And so the demand for rhinos might actually increase!

Simon – What is needed to address the rhino poaching crisis is effective protection of wild rhino populations and properly designed demand reduction work based on the principles of behaviour change campaigns not just simple awareness-raising, together with deterrent penalties for those trafficking in and selling rhino horn.


Guwahati: ‘Rhino nails becoming popular in grey market’ (India)

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Naresh Mitra, The Times of India | September 22, 2019

Read the original story here

GUWAHATI: When a team of forest and police officials got hold of a gang of poachers in Baghmari area of Biswanath district last Tuesday, they were surprised to find 12 rhino nails along with a rhino horn in their possession.

It was the first time, the officials said, they have stumbled upon the fact that rhinos are poached not only for their horn, but for their nails as well.

“Subsequent investigation and interrogation of the arrested poachers revealed that rhino nails are also in demand in the grey market for wildlife parts. The poachers said that nails are used as a substitute to make up for the scarcity of rhino horns. Rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese medicines. So, whenever the supply of horns becomes scarce, nails are used for the purpose,” a forest official involved in the investigation said.

Original photo as published by Times of India: Each leg of a rhino has three nails.

Range officer of crime investigation range of Biswanath wildlife division, Pranjal Baruah, told TOI that five poachers who were running a racket of supplying wildlife parts in the district were arrested on September 17 from different areas of the district.

He added that the 12 nails and the horn that were seized from the poachers could be of the rhino killed at Lokhora Chapori under the Biswanath wildlife division on the first week of April this year. “We have sent the seized items for forensic test. Of the five poachers arrested, one Budhindra Kaman of Bortamuli village in the district was directly involved in the rhino poaching case in the first week of April. He also collected the nails and horn. Each leg of a rhino has three nails. The other poachers were involved in arranging buyers to sell off the nails,” Baruah said.

A team from the Gingia police station led by officer in charge Biswajit Medhi, along with forest officials from the eastern range of Biswanath wildlife division, were involved in busting the wildlife crime racket and arresting the poachers.

Sources said that the poachers were trying to sell off the nails first because unlike the horn, the body parts are something new among the local smugglers. “The poachers were looking for buyers interested in rhino nails. They had also started negotiating prices with buyers when we got the tip-off and nabbed them. The items would have been sent to Arunachal Pradesh from where it would have been smuggled out to Myanmar,” sources said. Sources said that three out of the five poachers arrested were actively involved in supplying wildlife parts.