Top model's rhino horn scandal

2010-07-10 00:00

IN a recent interview over Twitter, Elle “the Body” MacPherson attributed her perfect physique to organic fair-trade food and powdered rhino horn capsules.

This from the woman who recently kicked up a stink at Robert de Niro’s Michelin-starred London restaurant because it served bluefin tuna, an endangered species.

MacPherson and the interviewer were tweeting one another when he asked: “You’re said to be a great fan of Chinese medicine. What does powdered rhino horn taste like?”

“A little bit like crushed bone and fungus in a capsule. Does the job though,” she replied.

Since the interview went public, animal rights groups have slammed the Australian model for promoting the use of illegal animal products.

According to a 2009 report, in just 40 years the illegal horn trade has been responsible for the demise of 90% of the world’s rhino population.

MacPherson has since apologised, saying she “never knowingly consumed or encouraged consumption of any products derived from endangered species”.

“I was twittering with a Times journalist about the taste of herbal medicines and made a flippant comment inferring I had tasted rhino horn. The idea is abhorrent to me. While I love my herbal and Chinese remedies, I would never put my health over the survival of a species,” she stressed.

Reports state that rhino horn has been an “essential ingredient” in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. In addition to its alleged anti-aging properties, ground rhino horn is said to be an aphrodisiac.

MacPherson said that while she regrets the grief caused by her words, she is glad it brought the protection of endangered species into the spotlight.

“Four out of five species of rhino are under immediate threat, mainly due to illegal slaughter for their horns.

“I want to urge everyone to join my utter condemnation of anything that further endangers their already precarious future. Killing rhinos because some people think its horn is an aphrodisiac is beyond appalling,” she said.


MACPHERSON’S brash statement on the consumption of rhino horn coincided with increased reporting on the rhino poaching surge in KwaZulu-Natal.

Jeff Gaisford of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said claims like MacPherson’s deeply disappoint wildlife protectors.

“There is absolutely no proof that there is any medicinal use for rhino products whatsoever,” he said.

He also warned against Chinese remedies containing rhino tissue.

“Oriental dealers also perpetuate the myth that the horn taken from a live animal is more potent.”

According to Gaisford, removing a horn from a live animal is almost always detrimental to the rhino.

“We dealt with a case recently where a rhino was darted and its horn removed. Unfortunately, they took out the top part of the animal’s skull and severely damaged its nasal passage.”

Gaisford said that while removing a live animal’s horn is “simply appalling” in itself, rhinos are protected by international trade conventions banning the dealing of endangered animal tissue.

He added that the Australian model, who lives in the UK, would have violated the trade laws of both countries. “Both … are party to the trade conventions and, strictly speaking, buying these products is tantamount to dealing.”



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