One weak­ness

Mil­lions of years of evo­lu­tion couldn’t have pre­pared rhi­nos for their big­gest threat

World of Animals - - Inside Nature’s Tanks -

While Africa’s rhi­nos have mul­ti­ple de­fence mech­a­nisms to pre­vent them from the teeth and claws of their nat­u­ral en­e­mies, there’s lit­tle they can do when met with the power of a gun. Their skin is thick but not bul­let­proof, so poach­ers can take down these mighty beasts from a dis­tance. These crim­i­nals sneak into parks and track the rhi­nos down to get their hands on one thing: the horn.

A rhino’s horn is made of ker­atin, an ex­tremely com­mon pro­tein in the an­i­mal world, but there’s big de­mand for it in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine. In­creas­ingly, the horns are also be­ing bought for dis­play as sym­bols of wealth and sta­tus in some coun­tries.

If a poacher’s bul­let doesn’t kill a rhino im­me­di­ately, re­mov­ing the horn of­ten re­sults in a slow and painful death. Cut­ting through just the horn would leave the an­i­mal vul­ner­a­ble but wouldn’t hurt it, but poach­ers are think­ing only of profit; they saw into the skin to make sure they take as much horn as pos­si­ble, leav­ing the vic­tim with a bleed­ing wound open to in­fec­tion and par­a­sites.

In the seven years from 2007 to 2014 rhino poach­ing ex­ploded by over 9,000 per cent. thank­fully, this growth has be­gun to slow down made from the same pro­tein as our hair and nails, rhino horn is sold for huge amounts on the black mar­ket

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