Action | Solution


There is an abundance of research with studies and documentation to prove no one theory will alleviate the pain and suffering caused by the horn trade. Some have proven to lessen incidents but many require sufficient funding to implement and maintain. Little by little, a combination of strategies and persistence will win this war. Each issue is highly controversial and certain processes are adapted across different conservancies to protect the animals. The Nile| culture is not for or against any one issue, we strive to provide adequate knowledge for future success in both source and destination countries.



Project: African Rhino

Project: African Rhino

With more funding for anti-poaching and higher security, this process has a proven record of success. However, some rhinos are still killed by poachers, as there is still a valuable horn base. The killed of a de-horned rhino also guarantees that same animal is not re-tracked. The process to remove them does not hurt the animal but is still quite intrusive; they do grow back over time, much like our own hair and nails.

  • Rhinos are darted from a helicopter or the ground
  • The Horn is marked: front-7cm from base, back-5cm from base
  • While animal is asleep, a chainsaw or hand-saw is used for removal
  • Eyes & ears are protected to avoid disruption or harm
  • The base is shaved, smoothed and covered with Stockholm tar to avoid cracking and/or drying

This action is not a first resort as multiple operations should be in place before considering to achieve a higher success rate.

poisoning & dyeing horn

The Rhino Rescue Project, Sabi Sands

The Rhino Rescue Project, Sabi Sands

In 2010, Ed Hern, owner of the Rhino & Lion Reserve near Johannesburg, announced of his intention to inject poison into his Rhino horns to avoid poachers with its end-use of consumption for Traditional Chinese Medicine. “The aim would be to kill, or make seriously ill anyone who consumes the horn.” The process entails drilling holes into the horn and infusing a toxic chemical, Ectoparasiticides. If consumed in smaller quantities, it is not lethal to humans and does not affect the Rhino in any way. Symptoms may include; nausea, vomiting, and/or convulsions depending on dosage.

Dye may also be injected during this process to warn poachers the horn has been contaminated. This has had success rates and also failure as some poachers still kill out of spite. Poachers also do not have a connection with the buyer/consumer and may still kill to get paid.

Once injected, the poison and dye is localized and does not spread. This results in the end-user still being able to use parts of the horn. To be more successful, widespread publicity in Asian countries would be necessary to deter potential buyers for the risk of illness. Some feel this is just a bandaid for the real issue at hand and a useless approach due to its inconsistencies.

synthetic/bio-fabricated horn



Over 90% of Rhino horn in current circulation are fake (buffalo horn or wood), poaching rates still continue to rise and this creates more demand in the market making a real horn more rare and valuable. A company like Pembient in Seattle, profiting off bio-fabricated horn show little interest in returning funds to African conservancies to aid in anti-poaching. 

“Pembient risks undermining all the progress already undertaken in Vietnam by giving credibility to scientifically unproven medicinal beliefs, compromising enforcement, and potentially stimulating demand, while failing to address a key issue: status-driven rhino horn users want real horn from wild rhinos,” Education for Nature-Vietnam

While all arguments seem to be against this development, the original theory was to replace horn as a material, ultimately lowering poaching rates. The launch date of these synthetic horns has been delayed.

stockpiles: store or destroy



The majority of horns in stockpiles are from natural fatalities. They are stored and locked to keep poachers from stealing and in most cases, they are successful in doing so. 

Some are in favour of destroying these stockpiles as it is very dangerous to keep them without extensive and consistent security. It is thought that burning or crushing the horn makes a public statement that they are worthless and the black market trade is not tolerated.

Those against destroying are aware of the profits these objects may bring. The potential legalization of trade in future would allow landowners to collect funds which, in turn, will help future anti-poaching strategies. Horns are also stored for DNA and record-keeping purposes. Data can be traced back to identify a magnitude of statistics to assist in education and even crime prosecutions. 

legalizing trade

If the horn trade was legalized, would poachers stop killing Rhinos?

There is very little control over criminal intent globally. It is difficult to confirm that legally traded horn would not end up on the black market. As there is no 'silver bullet', this option will not work on its own and systems are not yet in place to support this action.

There are 3 major reasons for this discussion:

  1. One-off sale of Rhino horn stockpiles: A strategy for potential market flood as well as financial support for conservancies and communities for further protection of the species.
  2. Domestic trade: Described as a renewable source, South Africa has argued it is a constitutional right to trade domestically. It is questionable as it is hard to decipher; who the buyers will be, whether it's considered for financial or conservation reasons, if South Africa is able to properly manage the trade, and how traffickers will be prosecuted.
  3. (Semi) permanent international CITES regulated sale: Requiring proper support on both the supply and demand side, there is question of how this will be regulated in Africa and who are the plausible trading partner countries; as none have stepped forward to date. The latter requires more law enforcement and political discipline to minimize the illegal trade.

In conclusion, this is another approach with two heavily weighted sides which strike much controversy. If horns can be removed without harm to the animal and traded legally, supporting the demand, the option seems viable. However, poaching and the black market will remain which could ultimately lead to a faster decline of the population.

captive breeding & reproductive technologies

Ben Curtis

Ben Curtis

In many cases, the efforts in captive breeding and extensive conservation efforts have proven successful in rebuilding certain subspecies of Rhino (eg. the Southern White Rhino, from just 50 to over 20,000). Some reproductive action has been taken in the attempt to repopulate the Northern White Rhino, but each subspecies is very complex and intricate in the reproduction process. Accomplishing this effectively will take a number of years and may not be achieved before the last of certain populations become extinct. 

Inbreeding relatives in captivity has been done as a last resort and can create argumentative allegations. Due to certain populations being so low in the wild, this may already be happening, therefore posing no issue in captivity.

With current funding issues already present in some conservancies, reserves and wildlife organizations, filtering these funds into another category which does not yet have a solid foundation is questionable.

sustainable utilization

via flickr

via flickr

Trophy Hunting: a specific and selective legal form of wildlife use that involves payment for a hunting experience and the acquisition of a trophy by the hunter.

Trophy hunting is an extremely controversial matter. It is legal in Namibia and South Africa with 5 Black Rhino hunted per region. White Rhino is more loosely monitored due to higher numbers and the fact that many small populations exist on private land. It is regulated by CITES (the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) and is only allowed under strict permit restrictions, in limited areas where the Rhino are carefully chosen prior. The Rhinos are usually problematic or aggressive, post-productive bulls that, by removing, may help the growth of the overall population.

Almost 25% of Africa's Rhinos are privately owned, virtually all in South Africa. Owners need to make money to afford the protection of their land and animals. Sustainable hunting or horn harvesting is often discussed as a means to do so. Not only so the landowners benefit from this practice, but also local communities. As an example, the Namibian government facilitates their Game Products Trust Fund (GPTF). This fund awards grants to conservancies, charities and ministries to help support in the preservation of land and wildlife. 

Permit abuse issues have forced the South African government to decline all hunting applications from Vietnam due to falsified documents resulting in eventual black market trade.

With the plummeting number of Rhino, some believe this method should be banned or suspended.