Learn more about rhino horn and the dehorning of rhino in this FAQ on rhino horn.
A CT san has shown that rhino is similar in structure to horses hooves, cockatoo bills and turtle beaks and are made up of calcium, melanin and keratin.
Signatories to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) banned the trade in rhino horn in 1976. The Chinese government banned the use of rhino horn, or any other parts from endangered species, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, in 1993.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism published a moratorium on the trade of rhino horn and any derivatives or product of the horn within the country on 13 February 2009, in terms of Section 57(2) of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004 (NEMBA). Rhino horn may be traded as part of a trophy obtained during a legal trophy hunt.
In terms of the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations of 2007 (TOPS) drafted in terms of NEMBA no persons may, without being in possession of a valid permit: hunt, capture, kill, convey, import, export, keep live rhino in captivity, or possess a rhino horn.
Poachers are prepared to remove any part of the horn, even the stump that is left after dehorning. Therefore, dehorning on its own is not enough. It will only reduce the temptation to potential poachers if the re-growth is cut regularly to ensure the horn mass remains very low. Zimambwe reported that their dehorning campaign was only successful if used in conjunction with traditional counter- and anti-poching measures such as regular patrols and population monitoring.
A rhino's horn is not fixed to the skull, but is almost an extension of the skin and is similar to a person's fingernails. Cutting too close to the skull can cause injury to the animal and cause infection, even death.
According to the Zimbabwean authorities, who did an extensive dehorning exercise in the past, they could not detect any negative effect on the social behaviour of the dehorned rhinos. However, more research is needed on this issue.
Studies have shown that rhino horns grow at a rate of up to 12cm a year, but only if the plate of the horn is not damaged.
A valid permit is required to possess the horn. It must be weighed, measured, micro-chipped and registered by a conservation official.
This has not been investigated scientifically. However, it has been proposed that, should the reasoning behind the removal of the horns be explained, it may be possible that that the activity could be regarded as a protective action, and thus more positive.
Costs associated with dehorning include the veterinary costs (time and drugs), labour and possible air support. Depending on the circumstances, a dehorning can cost anything from R8 000 an animal, but will be proportionally reduced if more animals are dehorned during the same operation.