Shopkeepers in San Francisco’s Chinatown are still selling black rhino horns, despite recent crackdowns by federal agents. The horns, wanted by practitioners of traditional medicine for their purported medicinal properties, create a market that directly contributes to the endangered species status for rhinos. All five species of rhino still living in the wild are considered endangered, with some species having very recently gone extinct. Will lawmakers and law enforcement be able to curb the trade soon enough to prevent further loss of species?

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State lawmakers are considering legislation that would make the sale of rhino horns illegal, aligning with federal wildlife trade laws. California bill AB-96 would outlaw rhino horn and ivory sales, and outline how law enforcement can enforce that and other pre-existing laws related to the sale and trafficking of endangered animal parts. The bill proposes a penalty of up to $10,000 for those convicted of selling illegal animal goods, which may not be steep enough, considering black rhino horns alone go for hundreds of dollars per gram.

Related: Could 3D-printing synthetic GMO rhino horns help save real rhinos from extinction?

The tradition of ‘medicinal’ use of rhino horn, bear bile, and other exotic animal parts dates back to the 16th century in Chinese culture. The remedies, usually ground into a power, are said to treat everything from fever and rheumatism to low libido. Modern science proves these claims just don’t hold water, but the traditional beliefs are so strong that demand for the illicit products still remain.

Unfortunately, this demand has contributed greatly to the decline of black rhinos in particular, although similar demands are also threatening tigers and lions as well.

The bill heads to a final committee hearing on Thursday, August 27. It looks likely that the legislation will pass.

Via The Guardian

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