Rhino horn use slammed by Chinese traditional medicinal practitioners

By Martin Leggett - 12 Sep 2011 16:31:0 GMT
Rhino horn use slammed by Chinese traditional medicinal practitioners

Could the ball finally be rolling for a debunking of the 'medicinal' myths surrounding rhino horn? That looks possible, with the statement Friday from the UK's Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM) 'strongly condemning' the illegal trade in rhino horn - and other endangered species. That adds to moves that may bring the halting of the resurgent slaughter in rhinos a step closer. It is widely recognized by conservationists that any strategy to protect rhinos must include efforts to reduce demand for their horns.

Damaging myth rubbished

Rhino horn was originally prescribed, by Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners, as a cure for fevers and convulsions. But more recently, a tagging of powdered rhino horn as a possible cancer-cure has caused demand for rhino horn to leap. Many have seen the massive increase in poaching in southern Africa, in the last couple of years - plus the thefts of horn from museums across the world - as being driven by this damaging myth.

The statement from the official body for TCM in the UK comes after the equivalent in the US - the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) - rubbished the idea that rhino horn had any real medicinal effect. ACTCM president, Lixin Huang, said in a letter in August that 'there is no traditional use, nor any evidence for the effectiveness of, rhino horn as a cure for cancer.'

Both organizations say that they have strict policies to prevent the use of endangered animals by their members. Apparently rhino horn was withdrawn from the pharmacopoeia maintained by the Ministry of Health in China way back in 1993. Of course, that particular withdrawal of official approval has not prevented the recent rise in rhino deaths, from poaching, but many see hopeful signs of a change in attitudes.

Move 'applauded'

Rhino conservation group, SavingRhinos, has welcomed the move by the RCHM, saying it 'applauded' the action. A day to celebrate the rhino, and emphasize action in aid of its conservation, is planned for 22nd September - World Rhino Day. That initiative is also being supported by the RCHM, which has posted links to World Rhino Day on its site.

Back in the protected reserves, the renewed threat to rhinos is leading to nations that are home to these endangered pachyderms, to consider more radical measures. De-horning rhinos, injecting poison into horns and banning 'legal hunts' have all been mooted recently by South Africa, which has seen nearly 300 rhino deaths alone this year. The battle to save the rhino may be far from over, but hopefully these latest statements may give the rhino a fighting chance.

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