The biggest problem for a rhino is what’s on the end of its nose
Rhinos have one or two horns, depending on the species. The longest ever horn recorded on a black rhino was 136cm long and for a white rhino was 158cm. The horns grow continuously, at a rate of about 5cm per year.
All rhino horn is made of the same substance: keratin.
Rhino horn is very similar to human fingernails and is made of the same protein. Like fingernails, if a rhino’s horn is broken off, it will eventually regrow. Unfortunately, some people think the rhino horn is very valuable, and so they commission poachers to kill rhinos, so that they can saw off the horn and use it.
In the Middle East – Yemen and Oman in particular – rhino horn is carved to make handles for jambiyas, a curved dagger. Men wear jambiyas as a symbol of their wealth and social status. The demand for rhino horn jambiyas increased dramatically in the 1970s when the oil-based economies of the Middle East boomed.
Rhino horn is also illegally sent to the Far East, where it is ground into a powder and taken as medicine, known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Some people in certain Asian countries believe that if they take a potion containing rhino horn, it will cure them of a fever or even cancer.
Read our cartoon, Black Rhino Populations and Production!