Posted on 20th September 2019 by Media Relations
A rhino’s horn is undeniably one of their most striking features. With the ability to shape it into a sharp point, they are very well adapted for protecting themselves from perceived threats and defending their territory. Despite the obvious difference in appearance, did you know rhino horn is just like your fingernails?
Rhinoceros horn is composed of a protein called keratin, the exact same protein that makes up your hair and nails. Animal hooves, beaks and claws are also made of keratin.
Just like your nails, rhino horn grows at a constant rate throughout the animal’s life. They can be broken, chipped, cracked and shaped. The only major difference between your nails and a rhino’s horn is the price it is sold for on the black market.
Rhino horn is still highly sought after through the illegal wildlife trade for use in traditional Asian medicines. It is believed to have the ability to heal and prevent an array of ailments as well as being regarded as a symbol of wealth in some societies. What we do know, through scientific research, is that it has the exact same effect as chewing on your own fingernails. Absolutely nothing!
Despite this, the world’s rhinos are disappearing at a rapid rate. In 2017, 1028 rhinos were poached for their horn in South Africa alone; a dramatic increase on the 13 Rhinos that were lost in 2007.
Through our insurance population breeding programs for three rhino species and ongoing support of in-situ conservation programs through the International Rhino Foundation, we’re aiming to ensure rhino’s remain in the world well into the future.
This World Rhino Day, 22 September, help us spread the word far and wide that the only value that rhino horn truly has is when it is on the magnificent animal’s head.
By Keeper Hayley Brooks