First-Ever Public Rhino Horn Burning in Europe Took Place in Dvur Kralove Zoo

On 21st September, just a day before the #WorldRhinoDay, Dvur Kralove Zoo and the Czech Republic burned over 50 kilograms of rhino horn. Most of it belonged to the zoo, two horns were from confiscated stock. At the same time, the Slovak Republic destroyed confiscated horns in Zoo Bojnice. This is the first destruction of confiscated rhino horns in Europe. Zoos and reserves in Great Britain, Kenya, Poland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Singapore and France joined the appeal as well.

“It is necessary to show clearly that the situation of rhinos in the wild is critical and that it is the demand for rhino horn what drives them towards extinction,” said Premysl Rabas, the director of the Dvur Kralove Zoo.

“Burning itself is a symbolic event that calls on everyone to re-consider consequences of her/his behaviour. By buying rhino horn you fund criminal gangs and poachers. As a consequence of smuggling and trading in rhino horn, the rangers are killed, innhabitants of poor African regions are terrorized and beautiful animals are destined to suffer cruel death. All of this despite the fact that rhino horn has no properties that it is believed to have. Its consistency is similar to consistency of human nails or hair.”

The appeal was supported by rhino horn burnings or symbolical events in other zoos and reserves, namely in Port Lympne (Great Britain), Wroclaw (Poland), Bratislava (Slovakia), Plzen (Czech Republic), Tallinn (Estonia), Ol Pejeta (Kenya), Singapore (Singapore), Doué-la-Fontaine (France) and Zlin (Czech Republic).

Under armed customs supervision, the pile in Dvur Kralove Zoo was ignited at 11am (“at the elevth hour”) by a legendary conservationist Tony Fitzjohn who worked with George Adamson of Born Free fame and who runs a rhino sanctuary in Tanzania now, together with Monika Leova, Miss Earth Czech Republic 2013 who is of Vietnamese origin. China and Vietnam are major markets for illegal trade in rhino horn.

“It is great that zoos burn their rhino horn stockpiles. I wholeheartedly support it. It is long overdue and I hope that more zoos and governments will do the same, along with using all their powers to pressurize the end-users,” said Tony Fitzjohn, OBE and ignited the pile in Dvur Kralove.

Fitzjohn and Leova were accompanied by the CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon, Member of European Parliament Pavel Poc, IFAW Director of International Agreements Peter Pueschel, Director of the zoo Premysl Rabas, a representative of the Czech Customs Administration Karel Mojzis and by a representative of regional government Otakar Ruml.

The event “sends a powerful public message that the Czech Republic does not accept and will not tolerate this illegal trade or the devastating impact it is having on the rhino and on the livelihoods of local communities,” said the CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon at the event.

Important part of the appeal was organized by Kenyan Ol Pejeta Conservancy, East Africas largest black rhino sanctuary. The reserve opened a rhino cemetery for all rhinos killed by poachers over the last years. Mkomazi Reserve of Tanzania and its supporting George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust participated in the campaign as well.

In Asia, the Wildlife Reserves of Singapore launched their month-lasting campaign during the same week-end. Apart from an exhibition of Sumatran rhino photographs and a public seminar on the plight of rhinos, the Singapore Zoo set up a booth highlighting that rhino horn is just keratin (material of human hair and nails) and does not have medicinal value. At this booth, visitors were requested to clip their nails as a pledge to not buy or use rhino horn products.

The whole campaign has been supported by many authorities on conservation. “I commend Zoo Dvur for its action in publicly burning the horns of its deceased rhinos. This action will raise public awareness of the slaughter of wild rhino in order to trade their horns,” wrote Dame Jane Goodall, a world famous primatologist and UN Messenger of Peace.

“The public burning of rhino horn is a very worthwhile demonstration of the crisis facing rhino world wide,” wrote Richard Leakey, a famed Kenyan anthropologist and conservationist who pioneered burning ivory and rhino horn stockpiles and dramatically reduced poaching in Kenya, in an e-mail to organizers. “Intelligent, educated people world wide recognize that horn from this critically endangered animal is worthless.”

More info: 

CITES Secretary-General s remarks at the destruction of confiscated rhino horn in the Czech Republic