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I got the chance to catch up on some conservation stories in the weekend, and this one from the Independent (via NZ Herald) caught my eye. This reported on the recovery of Nepal’s rhino population (there are 5 species of rhinos, Nepal has the “Indian” species).

The good news was the recovery of the 435 to 534 animals since 2008. The impact of the Nepalese civil war on their reserves is well known. This caused a drop off in management and the infiltration of these reserves by more poachers. Like the rhino, Nepal’s tiger population has also increased since peace has returned. In 2008 Nepal had some 121 tigers left, and this has increased to 155.

Sadly, what really caught my eye was the note:
Rhino horn is popular in East Asian medicine as a supposed sexual stimulant.

Can we please stop repeating this myth, it is wrong!

Rhino horn has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since at least 200 BC and never as an aphrodisiac [1]. It is commonly prescribed as a cardiotonic or antipyretic (relieves fever). The horn from Asian rhino species are believed to be more potent than the African. (The other big black-market use of rhino horn is for the traditional decorative dagger handle or jambiyyas in the Middle East [2]).

The use of rhino horn as an aphrodisiac is not noted in any TCM text. Please, the reality is that most wildlife poaching in Asia is not undertaken for the purposes of alleviating sexual dysfunction.

[1] Mainka, S.A. and Mills, J.A. (1995). Wildlife and Traditional Chinese Medicine: Supply and Demand for Wildlife Species. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. 26(2), 193-200

[2] Cunningham, C. & berger, J. (1997). Horn of Darkness: Rhinos on the Edge. Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford.