Vermont Public Radio: Exploring The Global Demand For Rhino Horns And Its Impacts

Vermont Public Radio: Vermont Edition


Exploring The Global Demand For Rhino Horns And Its Impacts

May 4, 2017


On Wednesday, the University of Vermont Police Services announced that a rhinoceros horn had been stolen from the UVM campus. The demand for rhino horns has led to a global black market and a string of crimes – from museum thefts to the gruesome killings of threatened rhinos. In March, a rhino was even slaughtered inside of a zoo in Paris.

Author and wildlife trafficking expert Laurel Neme joined Vermont Edition to put the UVM theft in the context of rhino horn poaching worldwide. She is author of the book Animal Investigators: How the World's First Wildlife Forensics Lab is Solving Crimes and Saving Endangered Species.

"Traditionally, rhino horn was used in traditional Asian medicine ... but it actually has no medicinal value," Neme says.

Around 2008, she explains, a rumor circulated in Vietnam that rhino horns could be used to cure cancer, and that caused an increase in demand for them. But there's also a belief that rhino horn powder can cure hangovers and Neme says possessing rhinoceros horn can be seen as a status symbol in parts of the world. Neme says the value of a rhino horn on the black market can quickly rise into the low six figures. So money is a major motivation in theft and poaching.

At the start of the 20th century there were around half a million rhinos in the world, but Neme explains that their population has been in decline and rhinos have even been "hunted out" in some parts of Asia. Now the majority of rhinos live in South Africa, and the increase in poaching there has been noticeable.

"In South Africa, I think in about 2007, there was about 13 rhino poached," Neme says. "And just last year in 2016, there was over 1,000 rhino poached ... If you think about it, that amounts to about three rhino per day."

Rhinos in the wild are not the only targets. There have been rhinos targeted in zoos, reserves and rhino orphanages.

Horns at museums and collections are also being stolen. And just because those horns aren't attached to a living rhino at the time of the crime, Neme says that doesn't make the crime any less dangerous for the rhino population.

"You're really expanding the trade," Neme says. "Because when it makes its way to the final customer, others will say, 'Oh, you know, I want that too' ...  A lot of the rhino horn that's being traded now has nothing to do whatsoever with any traditional medicine at all. It's really a status symbol."

"A lot of the rhino horn that's being traded now has nothing to do whatsoever with any traditional medicine at all. It's really a status symbol." – Laurel Neme, wildlife trafficking expert

In addition to the impact on rhinos, Neme points out another consequence of contributing to the market for rhino horns.

"You're also promoting criminal networks because the people who are involved in this are organized criminal networks, militia groups," Neme explains. "And that leads in turn to instability in those countries and corruption."

For those who want to get involved in working to stop the trade and poaching, Neme says just learning more about it is important, as is speaking up if you notice related activity.

Other suggestions Neme makes include talking to lawmakers about what they can do as far as wildlife law enforcement or bills dealing with the trade, and then looking for opportunities to support organizations that work on this issue.

Listen to the conversation with Neme above. Broadcast on Vermont Edition on Thursday, May 4, 2017.

For more from Vermont Edition:

Back in April 2009, Neme joined the program shortly after the release of Animal Investigators to talk about animal trafficking and related investigations. Listen to a version of that segment below (it has been edited for clarity and brevity):


Global Journalist: Rapid Deforestation in Indonesia



Indonesia’s rapid deforestation


Indonesia has one of the world’s largest remaining areas of tropical forests. From tigers and orangutans to Sumatran elephants, the forests support a stunning array of wildlife. They also soak up huge amounts of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

But an area of Indonesian forest the size of Delaware is cleared each year by loggers and palm oil companies. On this edition of Global Journalist, a look at the consequences of Indonesia’s rapid deforestation for wildlife, the climate and people.

Joining the program:

  • Amanda Korstjens, an ecologist at the University of Bournemouth and director of the Landscape Ecology and Primatology (LEAP) project.
  • Rolf Skar, forest campaign director for Greenpeace USA.
  • Anja Lillegraven, head of the southeast Asia and Oceania division at the Rainforest Foundation Norway.
  • Laurel Neme, an author and journalist who has covered the issue for National Geographic and Huffington Post.

To listen, go to:



Vermont Public Radio: Laurel Neme talks about Legal and Ethical Questions of Big Game Trophy Hunting of Cecil the Lion


Legal And Ethical Questions Abound In Big Game Trophy Hunting

Jul 30, 2015

The killing of Cecil the lion by an American big game hunter in Zimbabwe has enraged many people on social media. It also raises questions about the legal protections and social norms around hunting and poaching wild animals.

On Thursday, we talk with Vermonter Laurel Neme, author of the book Animal Investigators: How The World's First Wildlife Forensics Lab is Solving Crimes and Saving Endangered Species.  Neme has researched and written extensively on international wildlife trafficking and efforts to prevent and solve crimes against protected animals.

Also in the program, a field trip to one of Vermont's state historic sites, Mount Independence. The fort that stood there during the Revolutionary War shared a history with Fort Ticonderoga, just across the lake. Site interpreter Paul Andrischin tells us more.

Broadcast live on Thur., July 30, 2015 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Wisconsin Public Radio: Kathleen Dunn Show



Laurel Neme on Wisconsin Public Radio's The Kathleen Dunn Show

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Trading To Extinction

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Tomorrow the UK government hosts the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, hoping to secure political commitment from governments around the globe to fight the issue. Kathleen Dunn and guests investigate this multi-billion-dollar illegal industry and what’s being done to stop it.

© Copyright 2014 by and Wisconsin Public Radio. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The global trade in illegal wildlife has seen an unprecedented spike in the past two decades, and the figures are frightening: According to some estimates, 100 elephants are slaughtered each day for their tusks, more than 100 million sharks are killed for their fins each year and rhino poaching increased by 5,000 percent between 2007 and 2012.

Another sobering statistic tells us that today, there are more Bengalese tigers in Texas than in the Bay of Bengal.

Since the 1990s, the illegal trade in animals and animal parts has doubled to a $10 billion-a-year industry. The World Wildlife Fund calls it...

To listen, go to:

Will AM 580 Illnois Public Media

Will AM Illinois Public Station

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New Hampshire Public Radio, Word of Mouth

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CSI Animal Investigators

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Diamonds, guns, slaves and drugs may be the billion dollar black markets that we hear about, but animal trafficking is the third most lucrative criminal activity in the world. Illegal animal brokers and merchants are notoriously difficult to track down, but one Oregon crime lab has devoted itself entirely to the cause.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory is the first and only forensics lab in the world dedicated just to animals. It’s dealt with more than 10,000 cases from all over the world in the past twenty years. Journalist Laurel Neme followed some of the poachers, processes and prosecutions in her new book Animal Investigators.

Catching California’s poachers can be tough since so few game wardens patrol such a vast stretches of wilderness. So officials are trying something new. In a scene straight out of a television CSI crime show, game wardens and scientists are using DNA analysis and other high-tech measures to protect California’s wildlife. KQED’s David Gorn reports. Click here to listen at the Public Radio Exchange.

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NPR's Science Friday

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Wildlife CSI (broadcast Friday, May 1st, 2009; 3:20-4:00 PM EST)

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CSI: Animal Kingdom Can DNA evidence prove that a walrus was poached? Who is responsible for taking down illegal caviar traffickers? A scientist from an animal forensics lab in the U.S. and a National Fish and Wildlife special agent talk about busting crimes against non-human species.

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Kojo Nnamdi Show

“Kojo Nnamdi Show,” WAMU-FM
Aired: Tues. May 19, 2009, 1:00PM
4000 Brandywine NW
Washington, DC  20004
(30 minutes, live) Audio options available on their website

KOJO Nmamdi Show

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Culture Shocks

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Illegal wildlife trafficking is worth an estimated $20 billion a year behind drug and human trafficking; Animal Investigators documents this black market business.

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