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Alternative Medicine is Killing the Rhino: Skeptical Inquirer Exposes How False Beliefs Are Driving

June 15, 2018

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2018
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
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The rhinoceros is being driven to the brink of extinction, slaughtered by poachers for their horns, and much of the killing is being driven by the buyers and sellers of fake medicine. As the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer reveals, the vast appetite for “traditional medicine” and false beliefs in the horn’s magical powers are leading to a wildlife apocalypse.

In this gut-wrenching special report father-son team Robert and Brett Ladendorf expose the grisly consequences of rampant belief in pseudoscientific medicine and superstitions. Poachers, who horrifically sever the horns from living rhinos, leaving the great beasts to suffer and die, then sell the horns to buyers in China and Vietnam, where it’s used as an ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), none of which has ever been proven to have any effect on any ailment or condition.

Worsening the crisis is the belief in some cultures that rhino horns possess magical properties, and that by wearing trinkets made from the horn or by consuming it as a drug, the user will be endowed with status, luck, health, and even sexual prowess. All of it is false, and yet the rate of poaching is rising, the price commanded by rhino horn is rising, and fewer than 30,000 rhinos are left on the planet.

Rhinos are not the only victims, as animals including elephants, lions, tigers, wolves, gorillas, and even giraffes are callously hunted and harvested, in large part to be used in unscientific medicines and mystical baubles. “Demand is driven for many reasons,” write the authors, “of which belief in false medicines can perhaps have the best chance of being reduced through educational outreach and policies guided by progressive studies of human behavior.”

Also in this issue: Kavin Senapathy upends the myths surrounding “lotus birth,” a risky childbirth method in which the umbilical cord is left intact after birth, which is marketed as “natural” and “traditional,” while its actual origin is a 1970s fad.

Plus: Amardeo Sarma envisions a revitalization of the skeptical movement in the era of alternative facts; Joe Nickell takes CBS to task for a highly credulous puff piece on psychic powers; Christopher Labos and Kenneth R. Foster examine a report on cell phone radiation and cancer; and much more.

The July/August issue of Skeptical Inquirer is available on newsstands and in mobile app stores. For more information, visit

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Skeptical Inquirer is the official journal of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a scientific and educational program of the Center for Inquiry. CSI encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view. Learn more about CSI and SI at

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at