In 2011, Vietnam officially lost one of its national treasures as the last Javan Rhinoceros was confirmed as extinct in Cat Tien National Park (link). It was hunted for its horn! Moreover, in recent years, the increasing demand for rhino horns in Vietnam has severely threatened the survival of African rhinos, putting the country’s name in shadow. Shipped all the way from South Africa to satisfy wealthy consumers in Southeast Asia (China and Vietnam play a big part), horns are being smuggled illegally leaving mutilated, dead rhinos behind.
Rhinoceroses are thought to be one of the strongest in the wild and therefore its horn is perceived as a symbol of power. That is why generations of wealthy and powerful people wanted to possess and consume their horns. In Vietnam, rhino horns are extremely valuable not only because of the social status that is associated with them, but because of the role they have played within traditional medicine.
Consumption of rhino horns is believed to cure a vast array of illnesses ranging from a hangover to cancer. Among those who can afford rhino horns, acquiring one to be used as a health treatment ensures the well-being of their families. Men consume rhino horns to maximize their enjoyment of life, such as gathering with friends and remaining healthy and strong. Women care more about their self-beauty and want to provide the most expensive health care treatment for their families. However, many scientific reports have proved that rhino horns are actually made out of keratin, which is the same protein human nails are made out of.
Consumers and potential consumers are unaware that the rhino horn has in fact been taken off the official Vietnamese traditional medicine book sponsored by the government. A lot of people are also unaware that rhinoceroses are killed to have their horn removed. Lack of information regarding the subject and following trends continues to increase the demand of rhino horns and further threatens the species.
Why should we save the rhinos? Actually we didn’t have the rights to kill them at the very beginning. We killed rhinos and consumed their horns illegally, according to the laws of the Mother Nature. We didn’t create rhinos as well as other animals and plants, therefore we don’t have the right to take away their life for our own selfish needs and pleasures. All species receive a fair share of resources in the diversified and balanced nature to live, grow, and reproduce. By killing rhinos and other species, we, human beings, are interfering the balance of nature. After rhinos, which animal will come next to extinction? And soon, will there be any other animals on earth except ignorant humans?
It’s only a temporary method that we keep killing animals to produce medicine for curing the diseases that are results of pollution, bad food production, unhealthy lifestyle, etc. We need to tackle the roots of the problems. We need to promote healthy lifestyles, and at the same time seriously integrate social, health, and environmental issues in mandatory education.