Durban - In the run-up to World Rhino Day on Friday, September 22, the former head of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Dr Richard Leakey has slammed South Africa's rhino horn traders by calling for their public condemnation for gambling on the extinction of wild rhino populations and undermining species conservation efforts. In a statement released in Prague, Czech Republic, this week, Leakey lashed out at the buyers, suppliers and purveyors of South Africa's now legal domestic horn trade, ahead of Tuesday's second rhino horn burn-and-destroy ceremony at the Dvur Králové Zoo."The slaughter of rhino is driven by trade in rhino horn," Leakey said."Burning it and ridiculing those who value it is an excellent idea. And those who try to sell it should be publicly condemned, as they deliberately try to make personal profits on the extinction of rhinos."I have no doubts that intelligent, educated people worldwide recognise that horn from this critically endangered animal is worthless," he said.READ Horn of contention: Behind the controversial rhino horn auctionLeakey was the driving force behind the reduction of poaching in Kenya and in 1989, while serving under then president, Daniel Arap Moi, he initiated the world's first ivory burn.Kenya destroyed 12 tons of ivory in the process.As a result, Kenya was able to convince a majority of the world's countries to ban the international trade in ivory - a ban that led to an increase in the number of elephants in Africa. Rising demandA rhino horn burning ceremony. (Supplied)According to the organisers of the Czech ceremony, the timing of Tuesday's rhino burn is meant as a protest against a live rhino horn auction scheduled to be held in Gauteng on the same day.The auction has been publicly advertised by controversial rhino farmer and horn trader, John Hume - and is Hume's second rhino horn auction within a month."It seems very likely that most of the rhino horn will end up in Asia via South African based purchasers with links to the international crime cartels, that control the illegal trade in rhino horn," said Paula Kahumbu, executive director of Kenya's Wildlife Direct. "The astronomical price of rhino horn is driven by demand in Asia that has fuelled the current epidemic of rhino poaching in South Africa where rhino deaths from poaching have risen from almost zero 10 years ago to more than 1 000 per year each year since 2013."As we have recently discovered, even rhinos in zoos, sanctuaries and baby rhinos with tiny horns are at risk. "I predict that rising demand in Asia and the expectation of a corresponding rise in price of horn will lead to a massive explosion of rhino poaching, extinguishing populations in most countries," Kahumbu argued.READ: Chinese national caught with 5 rhino horns at OR Tambo International AirportJan Stejskal, Dvur Králové Zoo's director of Communication and International Projects, said: "Rhinos today are facing their worst crisis in decades, while their slaughter is driven by the demand for rhino horn in Eastern Asia."It is necessary to show clearly that the situation of rhinos in the wild is critical and that it is the demand for rhino horn what drives them toward extinction. Burning itself is a symbolic event that calls on everyone to re-consider consequences of her/his behaviour." Approximately 20kg of rhino horn will, on Tuesday, be burned together with several pieces of ivory. It is the zoo's second horn stockpile burn in three years.Dvur Králové Zoo director Premysl Rabas said: "We regard attempts to sell rhino horn as a big blow below the belt to everyone who means the rhino protection seriously."Altogether, the claim that lifting the ban on the trade in rhino horn will help to protect the animals is as absurd and immoral as if we were trying to sell confiscated drugs - instead of destroying them - in order to get the means to treat drug addicts."Apart from that, money from the illegal trade in animals flows to criminal gangs and terrorist groups that finance poachers, kill rangers, and threaten local residents."The whole process also supports the rise in corruption in African regions as well as in consumer and transit countries."