San Diego Zoo Rhino Horn Burn Sends Global Message

September 8, 2016

Photo: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Global © 2016, used by permission

Smoke plumes from a fire pit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park today provided a sobering reminder of the slaughter of rhinos taking place in Africa to feed a voracious demand for rhino horn.

In a ceremony that signaled to the world the United States is committed to ending the scourge of wildlife trafficking, confiscated rhino horn items with an estimated black market value of  $1 million – including whole horns, ornate objects and items falsely marketed as medicinals – were reduced to ashes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with San Diego Zoo Global and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to stage the symbolic event, the first of its kind in the nation.

Rhinos already have disappeared from most of Africa. There are now only 20,000 white rhinos and 5,000 black rhinos left in the wild. Currently, a rhino is poached every eight hours in Africa. At this rate, rhinos could become extinct in the wild in 15 years.

As the black market value of rhino horn has skyrocketed, poaching has reached unprecedented levels in Africa. In 2015, 1,175 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone (home to the largest remaining populations of the species).

The battle against rhino horn trafficking is being fought around the globe, including the United States where the Service since 2012 has led Operation Crash, appropriately named after the term for a group of rhinos.

Countries around the world are sending a clear signal that illegal wildlife products cannot be traded.