SAN DIEGO -- Rhinoceros horns and other items erroneously thought to have medicinal value will be burned Thursday at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park in a demonstration meant to discourage poaching and wildlife trafficking
Rhino horn products confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which could fetch about $1 million on the black market, will be set ablaze at 10 a.m. According to San Diego Zoo Global, the event is the first of its kind in the U.S.
Zoo officials say more than three rhinos in Africa are being killed for their horns per day on average. The horns are made of keratin, the same material that forms human fingernails and hair, and have no demonstrated pharmaceutical benefits.
That hasn't slowed demand for supposed remedies that range from cancer treatments to hangover cures, and poaching is reaching unprecedented levels, according to the zoo. In addition, objects made of rhino horn have more recently become a status symbol, a display of success and wealth.
Zoo officials said rhinos have disappeared from the vast majority of Africa, and if the rate of poaching keeps up, rhinos could become extinct within 15 years.
Wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest illegal trade, only behind drugs, weapons and human trafficking. In the past decade, wildlife trafficking has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, according to zoo officials.