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Rhinoceros Farming in China

Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years work within zoos.

Rhinoceros Farming

Most people are familiar with the concept of Tiger Farming and are aware that it takes place in Asia and in Thailand and China in particular. Less people are aware of Rhinoceros Farming and yet it is going on.

A TRAFFIC report for November 2009 showed that South Africa and Zimbabwe had exported 141 live Rhinoceros to China over the previous nine years. What the true figure is can be anybody’s guess because there are lot of discrepancies. During the years 2006 and 2007 South Africa reported sending 61 Rhinoceros to China whereas China said it had received 117 animals!

Why would anyone want to farm the Rhinoceros anyway you may ask? It is primarily because of the demand within Traditional Chinese Medicine. They can’t seem get enough of the stuff. The Rhinoceros is a protected animal wherever it occurs and so trade in the horn is illegal.

White Rhinoceros - Ceratotherium simum


Remaining Rhinoceros

Species Scientific Name Number remaining 

Black Rhinoceros 

 Diceros bicornis

3600 approx 

White Rhinoceros 

Ceratotherium simum  

14,500 approx 

Nile Rhinoceros 

 Ceratotherium cottoni

Indian Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros unicornis


Sumatran Rhinoceros

Dicerorhinus sumatrensis


Javan Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros sondaicus


Rhinoceros Horn is Keratin

Rhinoceros Horn has always played a part in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The horn, which is ground up into a powder and mixed in with liquid and is used to treat headache, fevers, rheumatism, gout, snakebite, malaria, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and even possession by evil spirits. Its rise in popularity today is largely due to the belief that it is a Cancer cure.

Rhinoceros Horn is largely made up of Keratin which is exactly the same material as human finger nails or horses hooves and, like finger nails, it is growing all the time. It is this continual growth that the Chinese Rhino Farmers plan to take advantage of. Any zoo Rhinoceros keeper will tell you that all Rhino have their favourite rubbing spots. It is possible to pick up shreds of horn from the ground around these spots daily. It is this ‘excess horn’ that will be management harvested in China, only it will be removed directly from the animals by a prototype horn scraper.

Nile Rhinoceros - Ceratotherium cottoni


No Medicinal Value

As Rhinoceros Horn is mainly Keratin it has no more medicinal value than chewing your fingernails. It is NOT going to cure malaria or headaches or cancer or any other complaint that you may be inflicted with. I admit to finding it puzzling though when I see statements such as “foxglove root had been widely promoted as an effective and sustainable herbal alternative to rhino horn”. It can hardly be an alternative if rhino horn has next to no medical properties in the first place. I was unaware too that foxglove had any keratin at all.

Experiments with rats in Hong Kong showed that nibbling on a bit of Rhino horn could lower a fever but only in the same way as Buffalo horn or Fingernail. It is also possible that the minerals in Rhinoceros Horn may have some positive effects on someone suffering a lack in those minerals. Anybody would however more likely to get a far better and more positive effect by eating a good balanced meal and popping a vitamin/mineral capsule.

The Swiss pharmaceutical firm Hoffmann-La Roche and the Zoological Society of London have previously conducted tests on Rhinoceros Horn and found that it had no positive or negative effect whatsoever on the human body.

Black Rhinoceros - Diceros bicornis


The Rhinoceros is in trouble

The Rhinoceros is in trouble wherever it occurs today. They are under threat not just from poaching but from loss of habitat and habitat destruction.

Even long dead rhinoceroses are not escaping attention. There have been thefts from heads and horns from museums. The situation looks likely to go from bad to worse.

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Indian Rhinoceros - Rhinoceros unicornis


Rhinoceros Species Size Comparison


The Chinese Rhinoceros Farm

The main Chinese Rhinoceros Farm is ‘The Sanya City Center for Artificial Propagation of the Rhinoceros’ which is located in Hainan Province. Zoo News Digest had learned of a farm on an island off the coast of China in 2007. As Sanya is on an island this is likely to be the same collection. It is very close to Vietnam and on the same latitude as Vinh.

In November 2007 the very first 19 Rhinoceros (two animals over seven years old and seventeen under three years old) to arrive in Hainan were for the "Window of Africa" theme park. This is possibly an alternative name or a ‘front’ for the farm or they are two different places. There is always a problem with names and translation and it is quite reasonable to assume that “Window of Africa” and “Africa View” are one and the same. It is then somewhat disturbing that when a reporter visited in 2008 he found “No animals were in evidence, save 60 or so rhinos living in rows of concrete pens, which he photographed”. 60? A considerable increase in just one year. As the first 19 animals had arrived the previous year and were nearly all young they could not have reproduced. “60 or so” is not an exact figure but suggests it was more than ’50 or so’ and less than ‘70 or so’. So ‘40 or so’ new Rhinoceros had appeared on the farm in just one year. Just where had these animals come from?

Location of Sanya Rhinoceros Farm


Sumatran Rhinoceros - Dicerorhinus sumatrensis


The Sanya Rhinoceros Research Centre

Another name bandied about for the Sanya area is ‘The Sanya Rhinoceros Research Centre’ which has actually produced two scientific papers. These are ‘Histological Study of the African White Rhinoceros Heart’ and ‘Morphologic Observation of the Rhinoceros Spleen’. Both articles by LIU Yin-xue~1,LIU Hua-zhen~1,ZHANG Jian-bin~2,SONG Hui~1,LU Zhi-qiang~1,LIU Zhi-wei~1,PENG Ke-mei~1 (1.College of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine,Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan

Horn Grafting

It is possible that there may even be horn grafting on the cards as was seen in a Black Rhinoceros in Lisbon Zoo some years back. (1)

Javan Rhinoceros - Rhinoceros sondaicus


Tiger Farming Too - Under a different name

Other Animal Collections in the area include the ‘Sanya Tropical Marine World’ , ‘Seabed World’ and ‘Sanya Greatest World of Love’. It is this third collection that I would like to draw special attention because it was here that the infamous Sri Racha Tiger Zoo in Thailand illegally exported over one hundred tigers back in December 2002.

Why any single collection could possibly want over a hundred tigers has always been a subject of some speculation and they have continued to breed them since. When the original tigers arrived they stated that they hoped to breed up to having as many as a thousand tigers. None of these animals are of any conservation value and a display of a dozen tigers would be as valuable as twenty. More than that is as ridiculous as it is suspicious. This has to be a Tiger Farm regardless of the name it gives itself. The ‘Sanya Greatest World of Love’ also carries out the same pointless practise of having pigs suckle tiger cubs though it claims “entire project includes pleasure, dining, shopping, science education and environmental protection.” Where the Pig/Tiger project fits in I am puzzled.

Bears and Seahorses

Sanya is also one of the centers for Seahorse Farming…yet another part of the Chinese traditional medicine armory. Other animal collections on Hainan island include the ‘HainanTropical Wildlife Park’, ‘Dongshan Lake Tropical Zoo’, ‘Nantai Crocodile Lake Zoo’, ‘Fenmu Deer Farm’, ‘Hainan Deer Farm’ and the ‘Juding Bear Farm’.

Saiga Horn - Now the Saiga are in trouble too

By allowing Rhinoceros Farming to take place the Chinese government is in effect legalising the use of Rhinoceros Horn. This opens the doors and encourages poaching of wild Rhinos wherever they can be found.

Some years back the WWF along other organisations tried to encourage the Chinese to look upon the horn of the Saiga Antelope as an alternative to Rhinoceros Horn. The Saiga were at the time very numerous. The slaughter began. Today the Saiga antelope is Critically Endangered. Curiously Saiga Horn is considered an aphrodisiac in China.

Its Not Just Sanya

It is not just Sanya which is involved with Rhino Horn. The Hangzhou Wild Animal World located in Zhejiang, Eastern China is also involved. They have openly stated that their company also has a pharmaceutical 'arm' and is involved in the manufacture of traditional medicines.

On the home ground any number of other nationalities are involved in legal hunts of Rhino. Lately though there has been a greater interest by 'hunters' from Asian countries.

Graphic Video

Not an Aphrodisiac

Rhinoceros Horn is not looked upon as an aphrodisiac in China. This is clearly the case but it is a belief that very many people share. This includes the supermodel Elle Macpherson who got herself into hot water when she stated she had taken Rhino Horn and that it had ‘worked for her’. She later apologised. Within the West practically anything which had a phallic shape was believed to have aphrodisiac properties. This belief stems from the ‘doctrine of signatures’ which was developed by the herbalist Jacob Boehme back in the Seventeenth Century. So certainly from the Nineteenth Century on there were many people in the West who believed in the horns aphrodisiac properties. In the British Isles the word ‘horny’ has long been used to describe sexual arousal in males and was very common from the 19th Century. James Joyce used the word in the sexual sense in the book 'Ulysses'.

The aphrodisiac belief applied also to India where it is still believed by some to have 'uplifting' properties. Happily Viagra has appeared and is taking its place.

Dagger Handles Being Replaced

Formerly the other most prolific user of Rhinoceros horn was the artisans who manufactured the traditional Yemeni dagger or ‘Jambiya’. Although this still goes on they are far too expensive for most Yemeni to afford. Oddly, today some of the daggers are manufactured in and imported from China. Others are made locally using plastic materials rather than horn.

Rhino Horn is Not Medicine

A Game Reserve??

An African Game Reserve sounds nice and some may think it has a much nicer ring than a zoo but it is these reserves which are selling Rhinos to China and not zoos!!! These same reserves which are selling ‘Rhinoceros Horn on the Hoof’ are those which allow the petting of baby lions and then sending them off to be shot in Canned Hunts. These same Game Reserves are very concerned about the poaching of Rhinoceros and will go to extraordinary lengths to prevent it. Meanwhile they are preparing to get the very best prices for their horn by selling it attached to a live animal. Whilst this situation continues the West are not in a position to point a finger of condemnation for growing and selling Rhinoceros Horn whilst exactly the same thing is being done in South Africa and Zimbabwe. These annual sales of Rhinos to China are as much a contributor to the illegal trade as anything else.

Rhino Horn is extremely valuable and in 2010 was said to be being sold for $60,000 a kilo. This makes it a third more valuable than gold for the same weight.

Rhino Horn also leaves Africa legal as trophies.

The Rhinoceros was practically wiped out in Uganda in 1983. Army deserters drove through game parks and reserves gunning down any animals they saw and poachers made short work of the rest. Recent years has seen animals reintroduced from the US and Kenya. In 2011 there are only 13 in the country and 2011 saw the first female born for 30 years!

Rhinoceros Killed in South Africa

Year Rhinoceros Killed  















Up to the 6th June 

So What Should Be Done?

So What Should Be Done?

It may seem a bit drastic but I believe that the export of ALL Rhinoceros Horn should be stopped. All stockpiles of horn should be destroyed. Horn on trophy heads AND on living animals must be removed and destroyed before export. Artificial horn can be used on trophy heads whilst with the taxidermist.

  • Save The Rhino Day
    Save The Rhino Day takes place on the 1st May every year. The day is important as it serves to draw attention to the plight of the Rhinoceros in the wild. The Rhino is in trouble, big trouble and in spite of huge efforts to protect it it is still bei
  • A Very Special Black Rhinoceros
  • The Zoo Hubs


(1) Brouard, Pierre (1978 ) Lisbon’s Unusual Zoo Guest – A 3-horn Black Rhino Diceros bicornis – International Zoo News, (No. 150, Vol. 25/2).


Robert Kernodle on October 04, 2015:

Here is my two cents on the topic:

Even having written that hub, I might go to an extreme and say that, if poaching cannot be controlled, then maybe the rhino species is better off extinct, rather than serving a fraudulent industry and enabling humans to demoralize nature.

Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on May 22, 2013:

Sadly true Shaddie.

Shaddie from Washington state on May 22, 2013:

Honestly I wish they would start to farm rhinos (taking domesticated stock and allowing them to breed to stable numbers in captivity) instead of allowing poachers to continuously slaughter wild ones by the hundreds every year. Rhinoceros are going extinct right under our noses and all we can think of "put more protection around their habitats!" But it doesn't work, poachers will go to any lengths to attain those valuable horns. And killing them is just too easy... I think other more radical options should be considered or we are going to lose them, all of them, forever.

We keep holding out for people to change, to realize the destruction they're causing, but I think we all need to wake up to the reality here. People have and always will be ruled by money and sex. To them animals are simply objects to be utilized until they, like all the rest of our world's resources, are gone. In the end, it's the rhinoceros who will lose this battle.

Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on July 30, 2011:

@Prasetio - Thank you

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on July 30, 2011:

I love animal and Rhinoceros is the beautiful one. Very well written and you have done a great research. Well done, Peter. I liked all informations here. You share a fact and we should protect this animal for their long life. Vote it up. Have a nice weekend!


Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on July 29, 2011:

@feenix - Thanks feenix. I like rhinos too. Special animals. I'd hate to see them go.

feenix on July 29, 2011:

Hello, Peter,

Wow, man, what a well-written, informative hub. And it is of particular interest to me because as I have mentioned to you before, I am an animal lover -- and the rhinoceros is one of my favorites.

And prior to reading this post, I was one of those people who believed that Chinese men ingested ground-up rhino horn for the purpose of giving themselves a "sexual lift."

Well, I have just thrown one more myth that I believed to be true on the trash heap.

Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on July 22, 2011:

@crisswhite - Thank you. More people should be aware.

crisswhite from Philadelphia, PA on July 22, 2011:

Great hub. Very detailed info about a problem most people probably don't know anything about. Thanks for sharing.

Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on July 22, 2011:

@highthoughts - Those who are serious about giving protection are doing their best with what is available to them.

Money talks. Just this week two museums have been robbed of their rhino horns. Worth more than gold.

highthoughts from Boston, Ma on July 21, 2011:

Can we not do more to protect these animals?

Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on July 20, 2011:

Thank you Hello,hello and itsoksam. Whereas there is an awareness of this 'problem' it just needs to be spread to more. Maybe then something will be done.

itsoksam from UAE on July 20, 2011:

Well detail information thx superb affort.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on July 20, 2011:

Thank you for drawing the attention to this useless practice. The list of Rhinos in the wild is shameful for mankind but nobody takes the slightest notice until they all gone and then just being put on the ist of extinct. Gosh, what we doing to this earth and nobody wil stop?

Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on July 18, 2011:

@Eiddwen - Thank you for reading.

Eiddwen from Wales on July 18, 2011:

Very well presented and informed.

Thank you for sharing.

Take care


Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on July 18, 2011:

@AliciaC - Thank you.

@kerlynb - Plans are afoot to identify every living rhino by its DNA so they can trace any horn back to source. One step in the right direction but it won't stop the poaching whilst there is a demand and the price is so high.

@Ghost32 - Yes I mean that no horn should be exported. Many mounted heads have artificial horns anyway so that would be no big deal. Removing the horn from a living sedated animal would be painless. The horn would grow again in time. Right now these Chinese farms are simply buying horn on living animals...not actually buying the animals at all and that has got to be wrong.

Ghost32 on July 17, 2011:

Fascinating. I'd not heard of the rhino farms before, though it's hardly surprising.

Don't much care for part of your proposed solution to the problem, though. Were I a rhino with a handsome horn, methinks I'd be highly offended to have it removed from my live head and then destroyed--oh, you mean ONLY if the critter is being exported. Hm....

kerlynb from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ on July 17, 2011:

This hub is has a chock-full of information. It is so well put-together. Great work.

I just hope that authorities would do something really effective to protect the population of rhinoceros.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 17, 2011:

Thank you for a very detailed, informative and important hub, which I voted "awesome". I very much appreciate your hubs that relate to your detailed knowledge of zoos. The information in this hub and in its tables is shocking.

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