More Woes for South Africa’s Rhino ‘Industry’

A South African veterinarian has allegedly used an
A South African veterinarian has allegedly used an “inhumane” method to dehorn “hundreds” of rhinos. Photo:

A South African veterinarian is under investigation for the “gruesome” dehorning of rhinos, while a rhino has died less than a year after being sold to a “hell hole” zoo in Bangladesh.

Dr. Alex Lewis is reportedly accused of dehorning rhinos “in a cruel and inhumane manner” using a knife and a blowtorch.

He apparently used a knife to cut off the rhino horn too close to the nerve endings. The animals bled heavily and blood vessels were cauterised with a gas flame. 

Free State environmental affairs spokesperson Kgotso Tau was quoted by News24 as saying that “the animals appeared to be in pain and that too much blood may have flowed”. Lewis claims to have dehorned “hundreds” of rhinos using the knife-and-blowtorch method.

Meanwhile, a male white rhino exported from South Africa to the notorious Dhaka Zoo in Bangladesh has died. The rhino was part of a wildlife purchase made in 2012, which reportedly included two white rhinos, two white lions, two striped hyenas, two spotted hyenas, three ostriches, three oryx, three zebras and three greater kudus.

The Dhaka Tribune says that “the zoo authority had found some scars, probably from beating on the dead rhino’s body” and “a post-mortem report after its death confirmed that the rhino died of hemorrhage in its head”, possibly due to “fighting with the other rhino or by banging its head against [a] wall”.

It is worth noting that South Africa wildlife brokers have a history of doing business with the beleaguered Bangladesh zoo: In 2008, 27 animals were sold by South African dealers to Dhaka — and twelve of them were dead in less than a year.

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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.