That headline is not true. But given that the truth seems irrelevant to the problem of saving the world’s few remaining rhinos, I think it might just be necessary.
Rhinoceros are being slaughtered by poachers who sell the horns for as much as a $1 million for use in fraudulent “medicines” claiming to treat everything from impotence to hangover to cancer. NPR’s Frank Langfitt had a disturbing and depressing report on this today on All Things Considered, “Vietnam’s Appetite for Rhino Horn Drives Poaching in Africa“:
Africa is facing a growing epidemic: the slaughter of rhinos.
So far this year, South Africa has lost more than 290 rhinos — an average of at least two a day. That puts the country on track to set yet another record after poachers killed 668 rhinos in 2012.
Behind the rise in killings are international criminal syndicates and global economic change. Poachers have gone high-tech, using helicopters, silencers and night vision goggles to meet the growing demand for rhino horn in East Asia, especially Vietnam.
Some newly rich Vietnamese believe rhino horn — used in traditional Chinese medicine — can now treat all kinds of illnesses. Last year in Vietnam, rhino horn sold for up to $1,400 an ounce, which is about the price of gold.
Rhinoceros horn has no medicinal value, but the false perception that it does is propelling the extinction of the species.
We have to attack that perception. And simply repeating the truth doesn’t seem to be an effective way of doing that.
So perhaps the solution isn’t to keep telling the truth. The problem is a pernicious and persistent set of legends, myths, conspiracy theories (“traditional” medicine is “being suppressed,” etc.). Maybe we need to counter that with a different set of legends, myths and conspiracy theories.
Rhino-horn extract causes liver damage.
Rhino-horn extract causes impotence. And baldness. Gout, flatulence, fatigue and lower-back pain.
And cancer. All kinds of cancer. Steve Jobs didn’t have cancer until he started taking rhino horn.
That sort of thing.
For this to work, of course, these counter-legends and counter-rumors will need to spread in places like China and Vietnam where most of the market for the illicit trade in rhinoceros horn is based. I’m not sure how to do that, exactly, but I think invoking names like Steve Jobs and Michael Jackson — people famous all over the world who are now famously dead — might help our counter-legends gain some traction there.
That’s a bit unpleasant, since it falsely connects those folks to callous behavior they had no part in during their lives. Seems like speaking ill of the dead — and like bearing false witness against those neighbors. But if such rumors could help to eliminate the demand for rhinoceros horn and thereby help to save these wonderful creatures, then I think both Jobs and Jacko would approve.
Sun Myung Moon might not have approved, but I still heard that he died from rhino-horn-induced liver failure. You’ll never read that in the “official” news reports, of course, because of the cover-up. But it’s true.
It’s not true, but that’s how this could work. Famous person dies, we blame rhino-horn poisoning.
Or we don’t even need to wait for them to die. You know why Angelina Jolie has all those adopted children? Brad Pitt took rhino-horn extract. Just once. And now he’s impotent. He should have known better, since George Clooney warned him when the same thing happened to him. And to Leonardo DiCaprio. (Ben Affleck denies it happened to him. He swears up and down that the rumors saying otherwise are untrue.)
Would this work? I don’t know. Nothing else is working and we haven’t got all the time in the world to figure this out.
Spreading falsehoods and rumors is unsavory, but it might help to end demand for a useless “medicine” by convincing would-be customers that trade in rhinoceros horn is fraudulent, foolish and deadly.
And that part is actually true.