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Rhino horns are getting smaller and smaller

About the episode

New research shows that rhino horns have gotten smaller over the past century. And the reason for that is likely (not entirely surprising): hunting.

This research was made thanks to a huge database of rhino knowledge. Compiled by Dutch researcher Kees Rockmaker. He was aiming for it
The Rhino Resource Center on me. There you will find, among other things, a huge amount of rhino images – pictures but also drawings and paintings – from past centuries.

Since you can’t have antlers to study and only observations in the wild say something about what they look like now, consider this study from the University of Cambridge: Let’s use this huge data set.

By examining the pictures, they noticed that the length of the horns had decreased in all five species. Something, according to the researchers, can have negative consequences for the animal. The reason for the decline is most likely hunting. The more large-horned animals are hunted, the more small-horned animals remain. They breed again and on average you get more young trumpets.

They also saw something positive when looking at all the photos together: It also shows how our relationship with rhinos has changed over the centuries. From “Wow, what a curiosity”, to something that has been hunted, to something that needs protection.

In this audio you can hear researcher Oscar Wilson, who is currently at the University of Helsinki. Read more about the research here: Images indicate rhino horns have shrunk over the past century, likely due to hunting. The paper can be found here: Image-based analyzes from an online repository provide rich information on long-term changes in human morphology and perceptions of rhinos..

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