There are currently five species of rhinoceros throughout the world, and three of them are classified as “critically endangered.”
Rhinos are hunted and killed illegally for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal benefits. There are fewer than 50 Javan rhinos left, while only 5 northern white rhinos survive anywhere in the world.
For her doctoral thesis, Sandra Appiah of Middlesex University studied the use of bear bile and rhino horn in traditional medicine. She analyzed a variety of herbs to see if they are more chemically effective as anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agents.
Appiah used an Agilent high-performance liquid chromatograph and Agilent mass selector detector for her research. She determined that nine herbs are chemically more effective than rhino horn, while eight herbs are superior to bear bile. In fact, rhino horn was found not to be an effective anti-bacterial or anti-inflammatory agent at all. Furthermore, Appiah discovered that rhino horn samples contained elevated levels of pesticide residue and heavy metal concentrations, making them actually unhealthy for human consumption.
Research such as this may help stop and prevent the exploitation and slaughter of endangered species for dubious reasons. Unfortunately, even hard scientific evidence faces an uphill battle to overcome centuries of superstition.
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