Researching Rhino Horns
View this clip from PBS' Nature series for a scientific perspective on rhino horns.
"It is really sad that these amazing animals are being murdered for a horn." —Elly Overton
By Elly Overton
I am sitting on my porch here in Nairobi, Kenya, writing about one of my first experiences here that I want to share with you. These recent events had an extraordinary impact on me.
I visited one of The Nature Conservancy’s partners, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in northern Kenya. I got to see many different species of animals on game drives or safaris. This was really exciting, as I got to see up close and in the wild elephants, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, lions and many antelope species.
We also saw the different sanctuaries for animals they had there, one of which was the Northern white rhino. The Northern white rhinos that live there are 4 of the last 7 remaining in the world. Their story is amazing, and you should go to Ol Pejeta’s website to learn more about them.
They were moved from a zoo in the Czech Republic to Kenya, where they were able to walk on grass for the first time in their lives! Their names are Najin, Fatu, Suni and Sudan. Ol Pejeta is actually trying to breed them at the moment, but so far with no success.
Northern whites and other species of rhinos are being murdered for their horn, nothing else. These poachers are being paid a lot of money from some people over in Asia who think that the horn cures fevers, rheumatism, gout, headaches and other disorders.
Honestly, it’s been scientifically proven that it does not. The horn is made of keratin; our fingernails are made of keratin. Lots of people chew their fingernails, and they still get those diseases. It is really sad that these amazing animals are being murdered for a horn which really has no value as a medicine or anything else. It belongs on the animal.
We spent a long time there, mostly because I enjoyed seeing the rhinos. They just fascinated me; I really can’t explain why, but they did. They are sweet and peaceful, yet they weigh 2.5 tons. These particular rhinos have gotten used to people.
We also got to see a black rhino named Baraka. Baraka was a wild rhino born in the conservancy, but he lost his eyesight after reaching maturity. A rhino cannot survive in the wild completely blind, so he was brought to the sanctuary and has his own pen. I got to feed and touch Baraka.
A poacher actually was shot attempting to enter Ol Pejeta on the day we arrived. He had been leading poaching in northern Kenya for years. The rhinos in the preserve are extremely well guarded, with security men, electric fences and towers where park rangers are on the lookout.
But still, out of the three African rhino species, the southern white is near threatened, the black is critically endangered and the northern white is extinct in the wild, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Rhinos are incredible creatures and to lose them just because people can’t take Tylenol is ridiculous. But we’re not going to lose them all because people are starting to become very aware and are helping them. So poachers better be careful.August 26, 2011
Elly Overton is the teenaged daughter of Greg Overton, a member of The Nature Conservancy's Africa team. Elly Goes Home is her blog about moving back "home" to Kenya.