Wildlife Apocalypse: How Myths and Superstitions Are Driving Animal Extinctions

Bob Ladendorf, Brett Ladendorf

Sporting AK-47 assault rifles and axes, the group of men stalk a black rhino through the African bush. They soon bring it down with powerful volleys. While still alive, the rhino peers at the men as they approach. The poachers quickly use the axe to sever its horn from its head, not caring that they are inflicting great pain as they hit a nerve and leave the rhino dehorned and its head a pulpy mess. It dies, leaving its own family behind because of human greed.“‘Rhino have a particularly plaintive cry,’ (conservationist Ian) Player1 wrote (in The White Rhino Saga), ‘which once heard is never forgotten. The screams of agony from rhino that have had their horns chopped off while still alive should reach into the hearts of all of us’” (Rademeyer 2017).

The poachers sell that horn to a middleman, who may be working for yet another smuggler, a criminal syndicate, or even terrorists. Government border agents and officials are bribed as the horn makes its way to countries such as China and Vietnam, where the horn is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat various ailments, none of them proven scientifically to work.2

While most rhino horns are ground into powder and used as medicine to supposedly cure cancer, impotence, or, as an illegal wildlife trade monitor says, “you name it,” people in Asia have begun wearing beads or bangles made from rhino horns thought to cure ailments as well as for status symbols. Some horns are fashioned into ceremonial cups (Kolata 2018).

Why is the illegal supply and demand for rhino horns so pervasive? Rhino horn, after all, is mainly composed of keratin, the same substance in human hair and fingernails. But it’s as valuable as gold or heroin. A kilogram, for instance, can sell for $60,000 (Kolata 2018).

The killing of rhinos is just the tip of the iceberg in the ever-increasing destruction of wildlife for dubious reasons. Not only rhinos are facing extinction but also African elephants; certain species of lions, tigers, and wolves; Grauer’s gorillas; and even giraffes. All this is done primarily at the hands of humans despite courageous efforts by conservation groups, governments, and individuals to stop the attacks. Some wildlife, such as rhinos and wolves, among many others, faced extinction when trade in animal parts was legal, but they now face that possibility again with illegal trading and other extinction pressures.

“Leading international wildlife crises involve illegal poaching of rhinos, elephants, and sharks for their body parts, to be sold on the Asian black market for exorbitant prices and used for medicinal purposes or art,” stated Cristina Eisenberg, chief scientist at Earthwatch Institute in Boston and author of The Carnivore Way: Coexisting with and Conserving North America’s Predators.

The myth underlying this illegal bone trade runs very deep. Proponents tout rhino horn, shark fin (cartilage), and elephant tusk medicinal uses, as tonics, blood-purifiers, or aphrodisiacs. But ultimately, it’s about money—these illegal products are primarily seen as status symbols in Asia. While the purported medicinal use of these items has not been proven by science, the profound negative consequence of poaching has been thoroughly documented and is decimating populations of rhinos, elephants, and sharks, leaving them at or near extinction. (Eisenberg 2018)

As of 2016, there were only 29,500 rhinos left in the world, 70 percent of them in South Africa. There are five species of rhinos—most of them endangered—with two subspecies going extinct in 2011 (Gwin 2012). Just a century ago, there were an estimated one million rhinos in Africa (Ellis 2005).

Source: https://www.whistleblowers.org/storage/docs/BlogDocs/blog2016/poachingstats.pdf

Some 30,000 elephants are poached yearly for their ivory (Showing That Every Elephant … 2017). The Ivory Game documentary warns that African elephants may become extinct in fifteen years. Biologists estimate that total loss of large mammals in Africa went up to 60 percent between 1970 and 2013 (Paterniti 2017). In the “Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: Second Notice” last year, signed by more than 15,000 scientists in 184 countries, a highlight of the document was a 29 percent reduction in the numbers of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and fish since the publication of the first notice in 1992 (Houtman 2017). The global black market in live animals and parts is the fourth largest in the world, with an estimated $20 billion in profits (Tackling Wildlife Trafficking 2017).

“Traders in ivory actually want extinction of elephants, and that is probably the biggest danger,” warns Craig Millar, head of security for the Big Life Foundation/Kenya, in The Ivory Game. “The less elephants there are, the more the price rises. The more the price rises, the more people want to kill them. And this is an ever ongoing circle that is just going to end up bringing about exactly what they want—extinction.” The same could be said about rhinos, lions, gorillas, and many other animal species.

Myths and Superstitions

While the trade in rhino horn is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), the black market fueled by demand particularly from China and Vietnam is lucrative and primarily recent. In 2005, according to the organization Save the Rhino International, about sixty rhinos were killed for their horns or as trophies in Africa. Since then, more than 7,000 have been killed, with 1,346 in 2015 alone (Poaching in numbers 2017). In South Africa alone, poaching increased 9,000 percent from thirteen in 2007 to 1,215 in 2014 (Juskalian 2017; Save the Rhino International 2018).

Connecting a real animal with a mythical one is a task undertaken by marine biologist Richard Ellis, author of Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn: The Destruction of Wildlife for Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History. “The use of rhino horn … can be traced to the unicorn, another animal with a horn growing from a totally unsuspected place” (Ellis 2005). He also wrote this for the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s rhino campaign in 2005:

It is not clear that rhino horn serves any medicinal purpose whatsoever, but it is a testimony to the power of tradition that millions of people believe that it does. Of course, if people want to believe in prayer, acupuncture, or voodoo as a cure for what ails them, there is no reason why they shouldn’t, but if animals are being killed to provide nostrums that have been shown to be useless, then there is very good reason to curtail the use of rhino horn … . It is heartbreaking to realize that the world’s rhinos are being eliminated from the face of the earth in the name of medications that probably don’t work. (Save the Rhino International 2017)

While the scientifically unproven medicinal uses of rhino horn have driven the eastern Asian black market, there are additional extinction drivers, including the superstitious beliefs in the efficacy of rhino horn for hangover cures and as aphrodisiacs. While the media reports were actually wrong about Asians using rhino horn as a sexual stimulant, the attention paid to that error ironically sparked interest in using it for that equally scientifically unproven purpose! Elizabeth Kolbert pointed out in The Sixth Extinction that rhino horn in recent years is “even more sought-after as a high-end party ‘drug’; at clubs in southeast Asia, powdered horn is snorted like cocaine” (Kolbert 2015).

An even more sensational claim is that rhino horn cures cancer, fueling even more demand. There’s no scientific basis for that claim. The cause was likely a rumor started in Vietnam a decade ago that rhino horn had cured cancer in a near-death South Vietnamese Communist Party official. The rumor spread rapidly, and the price of rhino horn surged (Rademeyer 2017). This myth prompted poachers to increase their efforts at killing rhinos in Africa, some even using helicopters to track them down (Watts 2011).

Of course, there may be a placebo effect for some users of rhino horn. “Belief in a treatment, especially one that is wildly expensive and hard to get, can have a powerful effect on how a patient feels,” stated Mary Hardy, medical director of Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology and “a traditional medicine expert,” according to National Geographic magazine (Gwin 2012).

While TCM does include a lot of vegetable- and herbal-based medicines, as well as non-endangered animal parts, the use of critically endangered animal parts that it promotes for scientifically unproven treatments and cures has been a major factor in the decline and extinction of animal species. Numerous articles in science publications, including this magazine, confirm that these purported remedies have no basis in fact. The late Robert Carroll wrote in his Skeptic’s Dictionary that “Magical thinking is clearly the basis for some of these concoctions, e.g. deer penis to enhance male virility. Many of the medicinals lead to the suffering and unnecessary maiming and killing of many animals.” As examples, Carroll relates how thousands of bears are kept in cages throughout Asia so their bile can be tapped and sold to cure various ailments. “Other animals are treated with equal disdain: sharks for their fins, rhinos for their horns, and tigers and tortoises for various body parts” (Carroll 2018).

As TCM continues the pressure on the illegal use of rhino horn, other connected factors help to reduce the numbers of these animals, as well as other wildlife. Some 73–100 million sharks are killed yearly, primarily for their fins for shark fin soup in Vietnam and China (Masson 2014; Defenders of Wildlife 2018) There’s no scientific evidence that the soup treats any medical condition, including cancer. It’s primarily a luxury item in Chinese culture, although consumption of the soup has been reduced in recent years with the introduction of an imitation shark fin soup (Shark fin soup 2018).

The vaquita, the smallest marine mammal that lives exclusively in the upper Gulf of California in Mexico, is almost extinct because they get caught in gillnets used to catch Mexican shrimp. Because of a high demand in China for its dried swim bladders “for their supposed medicinal properties,” the endangered totoaba fish is caught in the illegal gillnetting in the Gulf. A campaign urging consumers to boycott Mexican shrimp and asking the Mexican government to ban all gillnetting to save the vaquitas and totoaba has not been successful. “The Mexican government is putting shrimp industry profits over saving this tiny porpoise from its freefall into extinction,” says Alejandra Goyenechea, senior international counsel for the Defenders of Wildlife organization (Boycott Mexican Shrimp to Save Vaquitas! 2017). In 2018, the Elephant Action League’s Sea Shepherd ship continued its battle with fishermen and the illegal nets; one of their anti-poaching camera drones was shot down there in late December 2017 (Tillman 2017).

Another mammal under assault for its dubious medicinal qualities is the pangolin, who rolls up in a ball for defense with scales on the outside. While not currently endangered, the pangolin may be the most illegally trafficked animal in the world, with some estimates as high as 2.7 million yearly. The pangolin scales are sold for as much as $750 a kilogram. “Most … end up in China and Vietnam,” reports The Economist. “In these countries pangolins’ meat is a treat and their scales are used in folk medicine, even though the scales are made of keratin … and thus have no medicinal value” (A problem of scale 2018).

Some providers and consumers of sharks and other endangered species in East Asian countries may argue that the animals are killed for calories and protein, in addition to dubious medicinal practices, and continue to be needed to help feed growing populations. As far as they are concerned, animal species may be low-hanging fruit, whether endangered or not. They also may question whether those in the West who are critical of their eating habits should deal with their own issues of overfishing in the Gulf of Mexico, the waters of the Pacific Northwest, and Chesapeake Bay. Then there is the religious argument that humans have “dominion” over the animals, as mentioned in Genesis 1.

The Price of Poaching

With retail prices per kilo in the tens of thousands of dollars, the $20 billion black market hosts brazen players trying to make a buck. The mastermind sellers in animal parts, with methods for extraction, distribution, and financing, are likely to operate their networks similar to that of international drug cartels or arms dealers. Along the supply chain exist financial incentives for personnel with wealth accumulating to those who can control most of the network. From poachers to wholesalers to dealers to art merchants to buyers at the retail level, the profit margins drive incentives. Enforcers of the parts trade accumulate wealth but so do those at the retail end who can distribute to mass markets, whether in the form of “medicine” or in the form of “art.” For example, poachers will receive as little as $7 per kilo of ivory for an African elephant tusk. In the documentary The Ivory Game, an arrested Tanzanian poacher received from a dealer such a sum—a couple hundred dollars—for two tusks weighing fifteen kilos each. The dealer then parlayed his purchase into $3,000 per kilo in China.

On the streets across the world, there’s significant variance in the economic value of the tusks, or rhino horns, driving the incentive for wholesalers to move more product. In one instance, the ivory tusks were found in a Chinese retail shop that was selling a painted tusk for $330,000, or $22,000 per kilo. If that same tusk had been extracted by the Tanzanian poacher, that would be more than 3,000 times the price paid at the source.

With the recent banning of the ivory trade in China, prices for the legal selling of tusks dropped, but it’s too early to determine that impact on the black market. However, documented evidence of the illegal trade, such as that highlighted in The Ivory Game, is shining a light on the amounts involved along the supply chain. As a tusk, or a rhino horn, travels from the animal carcass on the plains of sub-Saharan Africa to the medicine cabinet of an East Asian retiree, the price increase has been phenomenal in recent years.

Other Animal Extinction Pressures

According to a 2013 survey by TRAFFIC, an organization that monitors illegal wildlife trade for the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)—known for its Red List of Endangered Species—rhino horn also is a status symbol for the rich in countries such as China and Vietnam. “The motivation for consumers buying rhino horn (are) the emotional benefits rather than medicinal, as it reaffirms their social status among their peers. Image and status (are) important to these consumers,” and “they tend to be highly educated and successful people who have a powerful social network and no affinity to wildlife. Rhino horns are sometimes bought for the sole purpose of being gifted to others; to family members, business colleagues or people in positions of authority” (Save the Rhino International 2017).

Even war is bad for wildlife, as shown by researchers Rob Pringle and Joshua Daskin in their recent Nature article. They conclude that wars do wildlife more harm than good, exposing animals to bombs and landmines and increasing the demand for ivory and bushmeat that are used to finance and feed armies (Conflict’s other casualties 2018; Kaplan 2018).

The emotional impact on chimpanzees and gorillas was well illustrated in the documentary Virunga, which showed the heroic struggles of Virunga National Park caretakers and military rangers to protect the animals from the intrusions of armies as well as poachers. Seeing the fear in the animal faces as they clung to the caretakers as bombs exploded nearby shows the difficulties faced by both wildlife and humans.

An additional pressure on wildlife and their ecosystems is the proposed completion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall by President Trump. According to studies, some 700 vertebrate species, such as jaguars, Mexican gray wolves, ocelots, mountain lions, and black bears, rely on the borderland habitat—and more than 180 of the borderland species are already listed as endangered or threatened. A wall also would keep those animals from natural crossings—wildlife corridors (State of the border 2018). While U.S. laws could help protect endangered species, Congress passed a law in 2005 giving the Department of Homeland Security authority to waive all laws when constructing a wall. The agency already has used its authority to waive forty laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act, in constructing 650 miles of barrier in past years. (Schlyer 2018).3 There have been border protests against the new wall and pending lawsuits by environmental and animal rights organizations (Against the Wall 2017).

One area of dispute as to whether it contributes to the decline in large animals is trophy hunting. Hunters who paid a lot of money for permits to shoot and import elephant and other wildlife trophies argue that the money helps in the conservation of animals in Africa, while animal rights groups say the trophy hunting “causes immense suffering and fuels the demand for wild animal products” (Pearce 2017b). For a big game hunt, for instance, a hunter might pay up to $200,000 for a rifle and $80,000 for a fourteen-day single elephant hunt (Paterniti 2017). A portion of the fee is paid to community members, such as the San in Namibia, and a portion for a conservation fund. An African trophy hunt for a leopard may bring in as much as $55,000, while a lion fetches up to $76,000. While some people still hunt to eat, sport hunters are in it for the thrill and to show off their “trophies,” although some face severe criticism as did the American who killed the well-known Cecil the Lion (Paterniti 2017).

President Trump planned to partially reverse an Obama-era ban last November by allowing hunters to import trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe, then he reversed himself and postponed the decision after an outcry from citizens and lawmakers. California Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican Congressman, pointed out that the political turmoil in Zimbabwe could spell doom for wildlife. “Elephants and other big game in Africa are blood currency for terrorist organizations, and they are being killed at an alarming rate,” he said (Pearce 2017a). In that country, points out Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of The Extinction Market, authorities seize the hunting preserves and keep the profits; they don’t reinvest in conservation. She said the trophy hunting business “becomes very commercialized and the profits are captured by elites. You can also end up with trophy hunting serving as a cover for trafficking” (Nuwer 2017).

Climate change provides additional pressures on wildlife, such as polar bears coping with the shrinking of Arctic ice. There are many other effects. “As the seasonal cycles in temperature and rainfall shift,” writes climate scientist Prof. Michael E. Mann, “altering by different amounts the timing of the hatching of insects and the arrival of birds, entire food webs are in danger of disruption. Plants and animals possess a certain amount of behavioral elasticity, but the more rapid the changes, the more likely this intrinsic adaptive capacity will be exceeded, and the more likely that we humans will be responsible for one of the most devastating extinction events in Earth’s history” (Mann and Toles 2016).

These additional pressures—added to the demand for certain wildlife, such as rhinos and elephants, based on myths and superstitions—may indeed produce a wildlife apocalypse.

Live Wild Pet Trade

While China and Vietnam have been the main drivers for the extinction of rhinos and elephants, the United States and Europe have surprisingly major black markets for the trade in wild, exotic pets. Birds and snakes from overseas are stuffed into soda bottles for transit to the Western countries. Tragically, 90 percent of these animals die in transit (Wild Matters 2017). Many of the same black marketers in wild animal parts, such as rhino horn, also spark the trade in live animals (Conniff 2017).

“Many of these people who were doing the traditional medicine trade are now branching out because the high-end pet trade in China has grown immensely,” commented Brian Horne, a herpetologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Critically endangered adult ploughshare tortoises that live only in Madagascar cost $100,000 each, which now draws in criminal elements. For example, thieves broke into a captive breeding facility in Thailand—set up by conservationists to rebuild populations of endangered species—and stole six ploughshare tortoises. The trade in exotic pets, according to conservation biologist David S. Wilcove, has “the potential to drive species to extinction even when they have suitable habitat, and to do so without anyone being aware of it” (Conniff 2017).

How Smartphones Decimated Grauer’s Gorillas

Just when anyone interested in preserving species on the verge of extinction feels comfortable that many efforts are being made to fight back through the work of governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and concerned individuals, the disquieting news is the human demand for cell phones is the cause of at least one mammal’s near extinction. Grauer’s gorillas in the Congo have suffered a 77 percent decline in the past two decades because of the consumer electronics explosion. How?

One of the key components of a cell phone is the mineral coltan, and 80 percent of it is found in mines in the Congo. Those mines that destroy the land to unearth coltan and other minerals often use young children. These are “artisanal” operations, meaning that the mining requires not machinery but laborers digging craters into stream beds by hand. Amnesty International reports that as many as 40,000 children may be mining for coltan in the Congo.

“To feed these people, wildlife is hunted from the surrounding forests,” said Tara Stoinski, president and chief scientist of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. “This includes gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and many other species.” Trade in bushmeat is illegal, but the Congo is a war-torn region that makes such laws unenforceable (Posada 2017).

Fighting Back

While the outlook is dire for many species, including giraffes in Africa that have seen their numbers decline nearly 40 percent from 1985–2015 to less than 100,000 now, the good news is that many governments, NGOs, conservation organizations, and individuals are banding together to save as many species as possible. As of January 1, 2018, China has banned all trade in ivory, which follows the lead of the United States in 2016 (Giraffes newly classified 2017). Hong Kong also announced in late January that it would ban all ivory trade by 2021. Just this past July, 7.2 tons of new elephant tusks were found under frozen fish in Hong Kong and confiscated. Only ivory acquired before 1970 is legal there (May 2018).

In 2017, Operation Thunderbird, a sixty-nation global seizure of illegal wildlife and floral trade, identified 900 suspects, with 1,300 seizures worth $5.1 million (Wild Matters: Tackling Wildlife Trafficking 2017). More than 1,000 rangers have given up their lives from 2004–2014, primarily in Africa, protecting wildlife from poachers (Chancellor 2014).4 A conservation organization, The Nature Conservancy, partnered with the Northern Rangelands Trust to reduce poaching in Northern Kenya (Oluchina 2014). However, the fight against poachers in Africa received a setback when famous American conservation investigator Esmond Bradley Martin, seventy-five, was stabbed to death at his home in a possible murder that may have been disguised as a robbery of the long-time activist who uncovered illegal global trafficking of ivory and rhino horn (Dixon 2018).

In January 2018, Ivory Coast officials said they broke up an international ivory-smuggling network, the second such bust on the continent that month. They arrested six people and confiscated more than half a ton each of ivory and pangolin scales, as well as leopard parts. The network hid ivory parts in hollowed-out logs that were resealed and shipped to Asian countries. The suspects had made calls to tax-haven countries, leading officials to suspect money laundering. In another bust in Gabon, officials said they also broke up a smuggling network that had ties to a cell of Boko Haram, the Islamic militant group responsible for numerous murders and kidnappings in northern Nigeria and bordering countries (Searcey 2018).

Undercover NGO investigators and journalists have been instrumental in identifying companies, merchants, and corrupt businessmen involved in the illegal wildlife trafficking trade, as shown in the documentaries The Ivory Game and Virunga. There are many organizations working to save wildlife, from long-standing ones such as The Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife to newer ones such as the Elephant Action League, Wildleaks, and United for Wildlife, which was created by the Duke (Prince William) and Duchess (Catherine) of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Others, such as Earthwatch, engage citizen scientists in worldwide expeditions to provide data for scientific studies on wildlife, climate change, and other matters.

There’s even a new tactic in wildlife conservation: horn and tusk forensics. Like the genetic fingerprinting methods in the criminal justice system, scientists are making efforts to match the DNA of a rhino or elephant with its horn or tusk in possession of a poacher. A scientific database called Rhodis (modeled after the FBI’s Codis system) has been established with some 20,000 samples taken from rhinos by Dr. Cindy Harper, a veterinarian at the University of Pretoria, and her colleagues (Kolata 2018).

These efforts may be too little, too late for some species, but they give hope to others. Not only is there some success in reducing poaching, but there is also increasing awareness in the public about the wildlife trafficking issues. The false beliefs that have driven poaching and decimation of various species need to be corrected, and the “profits captured by elites,” as termed by Felbab-Brown, need to be stopped (Nuwer 2017). Even John Hume, the controversial rhino rancher behind the rhino-ranching movement to legalize the rhino horn trade in South Africa and the subject of the controversial documentary Trophy, thinks rhino horn medicinal uses are bunk. It doesn’t matter to him that rhino horn is snake oil when it comes to treating serious maladies. “I’m not ashamed that the rhino horn I make available to the world could possibly be ingested by somebody who’s got cancer and he dies anyway. It’s not going to help them” (Christy 2016).

It’s hard not to feel sad for the brutality inflicted on animals for purposes of human beliefs in myths and superstitions, for status and appetites, and for plain old greed. A lasting image of the horrible legacy of inhumane treatments of animals can be seen in The Reliquary, a U.S. government warehouse outside Denver that holds 1.3 million products made from animals, many of them threatened or endangered species. Many were donated, but most were seized upon entry. Just 10 percent of global trade in banned wildlife is intercepted. In the repository, you’ll see an African elephant footstool, tiger teeth and claws fashioned into jewelry, a hat made of black bear skin, Tibetan antelope shawls, and a rhinoceros snout and horns on a wooden platter (Spinski 2017).

The fight continues to save endangered animals, and we can only hope that all humans realize the necessity for animal biodiversity and the need for scientific evidence in the use of medicines. “Too many animals, from sea horses to rhinoceroses, are endangered by the demands of traditional Chinese medicine,” says author Richard Ellis.5 “Of course, TCM is not the only factor in the endangerment of these animals, but it plays an enormous part. If present trends continue, tigers and rhinos will become extinct in the wild, perhaps in our lifetime and almost certainly in the lifetime of our children’s children” (Ellis 2005).

From the savannahs of Africa to the ports of North America, the black market trade in animal parts is lucrative for top smugglers. Demand is driven for many reasons, of which belief in false medicines can perhaps have the best chance of being reduced through educational outreach and policies guided by progressive studies of human behavior. Government programs and public-private agency partnerships can and have demonstrated success in nudging consumer behavior in a direction that can produce positive outcomes for the self and the community. It can start with something as little as a contest for an anti-littering slogan along Texan highways to change human behavior. It can be a program to frame better choices for consumers who desire certain attributes from parts of animals. Though affecting the behavior of those who demand parts for status or for value may prove the hardest work, moving humans toward awareness through education and science may have the most profound effect on a mass scale.

For Carl Sagan, it would be “far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring” (Sagan 1997). Though Sagan focused on the possibility of life beyond Earth, he knew that the greatest dangers to our own well-being and to that of our environment came from within ourselves. For our planet, the reduction and loss of species from these delusions of grandeur is tragic. It also would be a tragedy if we weren’t able to fight off the AK-47s and machetes with better knowledge on why people reject science in favor of the dark.



  1. Ian Player is credited with saving South Africa’s rhinos from extinction in the 1960s.
  2. A 2015 article in Skeptical Inquirer by Harriet Hall, for instance, casts doubt on TCM versus science-based medicine: “Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Didn’t Win a Nobel Prize, Scientific Medicine Did.” It is available online at https://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/traditional_chinese_medicine_tcm_didnrsquot_win_a_nobel_prize_scientific_me.
  3. The value and extent of wildlife corridors in North America is explained by Cristina Eisenberg in her book The Carnivore Way: Coexisting with and Conserving North America’s Predators.
  4. For a more detailed account of how rangers face dangers from poachers, see Robyn Dixon’s “Elephant Men,” Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2017. Another article on the rhino horn legal trade controversy is Robyn Dixon’s “It’s Cruelty beyond Words,” Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2017.
  5. In Ellis’s Tiger Bone & Rhino Horn: The Destruction of Wildlife for Traditional Chinese Medicine, chapter 3 (“Chinese Medicine, Western Medicine”) discusses TCM in detail, while chapter 4 (“Horn of Plenty”) details the history of the “unicorn” and its connection to the supernatural and the reality of real animal horns.



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Bob Ladendorf is a freelance writer, former chief operating officer at the Center for Inquiry Los Angeles, and coauthor of an article on “The Mad Gasser of Mattoon” for Skeptical Inquirer. He also recently reviewed the documentary The Pathological Optimist and Michael E. Mann’s book on climate change for this magazine. Brett Ladendorf has worked in the financial markets for more than twelve years and currently has a financial services consulting practice for alternative investment managers and financial technology firms. He holds a BA in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His coauthor is his father.

Bob Ladendorf

Bob Ladendorf is the chief operating officer of CFI/L.A. As a freelance writer, he co-authored The Mad Gasser of Mattoon in the July/August 2002 Skeptical Inquirer.