Outline Message claims that a man in Thailand died after consuming powdered rhino horn that had been deliberately poisoned in a controversial attempt to curtail the poaching of rhinos.
Credible reports of such a death remain unsubstantiated. News reports do indicate that a South African rhino park owner has been experimenting with poisoning of horns on one of his animals as an anti-poaching measure. However, there is no evidence to support the claim that a person has already died from consuming such poisoned rhino horn.
A woman mourns over the body of her deceased husband after he had purchased apparently purposely contaminated Rhino horn on the open market in Bangkok. The source of the contamination is still to be verified but it is thought to be from a private game farm somewhere in southern Africa.
Officials in Thailand are frantic to identify the source, as the powdered horn is sold in miniscule amounts and they have no idea how much has already been distributed throughout Bangkok. Local hospitals are on standby for an unprecedented influx of new cases.
Officials are unable get information as the rhino horn dealers in Bangkok are being unco-operative. They neither want to be fingered as being the provider of the poisoned horn, not do they want to reveal their illegal international sources. It is believed that private game farm owners in southern Africa are colluding between themselves to distribute an effective poison that is harmless to the animals but harmful, or even fatal as in this case, to those that ingest the contaminated horn.
A game farm owner from the North West Province who obviously wishes to remain anonymous, has admitted to using the poison on 4 of his animals. Three of them have shown no side-effects whatsoever 2 months after the poison was injected into the horns. However the 4th rhino was slaughtered and de-horned on a remote part of his farm in the last week of July. When asked to comment on the death in Thailand from suspect poisoned rhino horn, he refused to be drawn into the morals of the farmers joint action. He said that there would be many more cases in the near future as he was personally aware of at least another 5 slaughters of contaminated rhinos in the North West Province alone.
Authorities in South Africa are unable to comment on the "poison" collusion among the game farm owners nor are they able to verify the source of the contaminated horn.
Despite the ethical furore the poisoning of rhino horn may trigger, to many of us this is what we've been waiting for - It's great news in a desperate fight - at last a positive way to fight back to help save the rhino, no matter how illegal - after all the poachers & the "Rhino Mafia" & corrupt politicians or official's acts are also very much illegal !! - all hell will break loose but always remember - " 'n boer maak 'n plan" - this one's desperate but terrific and will wake the Zim, Mozam, SA & Provincial Gov's & Authorities & those further north from their arrogant/corrupt slumbers !! The fight's really on - can't wait !! - Well done to the farmers & rhino owners !!
According to a message that is currently circulating via blogs, social networking websites and email, a man in Thailand has died after consuming powdered rhino horn that had been deliberately contaminated with a deadly poison in a drastic attempt to curb the continual poaching of these animals. The message, which purports to be a news article from a Thai newspaper called the "Bangkok Star", claims that the man died after he purchased contaminated horn thought to originate from a South African game farm. The article warns that hospitals in Thailand are expecting an "unprecedented influx" of new poisoning cases as the contaminated horn spreads through the Thai market.
However, the claims in the message are so far unsubstantiated. Reports indicate that one South African game park owner, desperate to curb the continual poaching of his precious animals, has indeed been experimenting with the deliberate poisoning of horns. However, at the time of writing, there is no credible evidence to support the claim that a man has actually died after taking such deliberately poisoned rhino horn.
The Bangkok Star, the news publication that supposedly reported the death, remains elusive. In fact, I could find no references whatsoever to such a publication other than those that discuss this rhino horn death story. Moreover, the alleged death has apparently not been reported by any other news outlets, in Thailand or elsewhere. If the death described really took place, the case would certainly raise many ethical and legal issues. Thus, it is very unlikely that such an important issue would be so completely ignored by the mainstream media.
At this point, it seems likely that the story is a fictional "what if" extrapolation derived from a poisoned horn anti-poaching proposal put forward by an angry South African rhino park owner who continually loses his animals to illegal hunters. A July 23 2010 report published on South African news outlet TimesLive notes:
Ed Hern, owner of the Rhino and Lion Park near Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, believes poisoning the horns of rhinos will result in consumers of the product falling ill or dying and knock the demand for this illegal product hard.
"We need to try poisoning the horns with something like cyanide so when someone uses it for medicine they will die. I have started testing with a vet," he said.
South African rhino owners are becoming increasingly desperate as the country is being targeted by high-tech rhino poaching syndicates, believed to be working with industry insiders, to feed the demand for rhino horn in Vietnam and China.
According to the TimesLive article, Hern and a vet have been injecting small amounts of an undisclosed poison into the horn of one of his rhinos to gauge its effects on the animal. However, there are no indications that this particular animal has subsequently been taken by poachers and therefore led to contaminated horn being spread to the Asian market. Hern acknowledges that he "could get into a lot of trouble" if someone died or become ill after consuming his deliberately poisoned horn. In fact, poisoning the horn would be a criminal offence and the perpetrator could be convicted of murder if someone died.
Hern's radical proposal is certainly understandable. South African rhino park owners continually lose their rhinos to callous poachers who slaughter the animals solely for their horns which are subsequently powdered and sold as traditional medicine in Asia and elsewhere. Tragically, repeated scientific studies have shown that rhino horn has no medicinal effect whatsoever. Thus, the illegal trade in rhino horn results in the totally pointless deaths of these magnificent animals and does nothing at all to help the health of the misguided individuals who support the poaching by buying "medicinal" rhino horn.
While some might argue that those who support such a reprehensible trade deserve what they get, the deliberate poisoning of rhino horn is not a tactic condoned or advocated by Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) . And National Geographic writer David Braun concurs, noting:
Rhino poaching has become such a crisis in South Africa that some owners of private game parks and conservation activists have been threatening to poison rhino horns with cyanide or some other toxin that would be lethal to anyone who consumed products containing horn.
The motivation behind such thinking is that if the demand for rhino horn can be dried up out of fear of being poisoned the poachers will have no incentive to kill rhinos. Many good people have applauded the idea.
But we should think this through. Poisoning a consumer of rhino horn would be murder. People who have been taking rhino horn for decades could be hurt or worse. Innocent people who might not even know they are taking rhino horn could die. The people who actually do the poaching and smuggling--and who finance the whole sordid business--would probably be unharmed.
A better way to tackle the consumer side of the rhino trade is education. The governments of the consumer countries need to promote general awareness that rhino horn is completely useless as a medication. There needs to be high-profile publicity of the scams involving using fake rhino horn in traditional medicine, so users may think twice before they part with their money.
At this point, it is unclear if it is even possible to impregnate one animal's horn with enough poison to have a detrimental impact on a consumer who is likely to take only a small dose of the stuff at a sitting.
The merits, ethics and feasibility of such a radical tactic are debatable. However, this report, which claims that a death from deliberately poisoned rhino horn has already occurred, appears spurious and is not supported by any credible news sources.