In "Killing Fields" [June 13], Hannah Beech and Alex Perry rightly blame the demand for rhino horn on the belief in Asia that it is capable of curing close to any malady. According to the authors, a widely advocated approach to ending the slaughter of the magnificent beasts is to cultivate them for their horns. But rather than fulfilling the demand, it might be better to invest in information campaigns on the practically nonexistent medicinal value of rhino horn. It is the demand that squeezes the trigger.
When will it be realized that using the rhino horn as medicine is about as useful a practice as eating your own finger- and toenails, as well as your own hair? That is to say, not at all. The truly sad part is that archaic traditions and beliefs aid in fueling entire industries based on barbaric practices like those being perpetrated against the humble rhinoceros.
The described concept of breeding rhinos for annual horn harvesting appears to be an improvement over outright poaching or "licensed" hunts in private game ranches. Still, such rhinos would have a very poor existence. A much better solution could be the synthetic production of horn powder, possibly using hair or hooves as a starting material. Marketers could set the price just right: low enough to dry the market out for the natural product but high enough to still keep it valuable and desirable for the imbeciles believing in its healing magic.
As you point out in the article, modern scientific research has found no medical justification or value in the use of powdered rhino horn as a cure for cancer, high blood pressure or even as a pick-me-up for government officials after state-funded banquets. Why then do the press and others persist in referring to "traditional Chinese medicine"? Let's stop being politically correct and call it what it is: an illegal and immoral slaughter by selfish, ignorant people.
Let's not blame all of Asia but instead put the onus squarely where it belongs: on so-called traditional Chinese medicine. China's demented demand for rhino horn, shark's fin, bear gallbladder and nearly every part of the tiger for its witch's brew will accelerate the destruction of some of the planet's iconic creatures. Only when the Chinese government steps in to quash completely this hocus-pocus can we hope to have a chance of saving many endangered species.
Fenton, Iowa, U.S.
Your cover story failed to examine the urgent need for a more enlightened African alternative to a prohibition strategy. Rhinos have become a valuable commercial
asset as wild-caught specimens sold to zoos, as iconic stock for private ranchers engaged in tourism and, since the 1970s, for trophy hunting. This sustainable commercial value has helped save the species. Legalizing the sale of horns under a controlled system is the next logical step.
Hilton, South Africa
China Mines Australia
Other economies are thriving on China's growth, and demand for Australian mines is one such example ["China's Mining Pit," June 13]. But economies should structure their political and economic policies to become less dependent on China, the future power holder.
Michael Schuman's thought-provoking article mentions the Greens as an opposition party when, in fact, a Labor, Greens and independent coalition forms the Australian government's lower house. I am relieved that TIME's journalists seem to have just as hard a time understanding Australian politics as most Australians.
Missteps in Syria
President Bashar Assad should have used carrots and not just the stick to quell the upheavals ["Deepening Divide," June 13]. He could have promoted some Sunnis in the military. He could have spent some money (there's oil in Deir-ez-Zor). Then at least there would be hope that he could gain support. But it's a bit late to use the carrot now.
Bjorn Ulv Jensen,
Re "Innovate Better" [June 13]: Not surprisingly, the untrained minds of college students are the most fertile. Large amounts of money are not required to stimulate young minds; what's mostly needed is guidance and encouragement.
Thank you for the impressive and symbolic photo of a German nuclear plant that was never opened [LightBox, June 13], where people were enjoying a gigantic amusement-park ride under a blue and white sky. The photo symbolizes the possibility of a future completely free of disastrous nuclear risks. May this hope become a reality.