According to a statement from the office, the new classification "prohibits the sale or offer for sale in interstate commerce of this species and its parts and products, consistent with all other rhinos."
The announcement comes after South Africa, home to about 80 percent of the world’s rhinos, reported a severe spate of white rhino killings within its borders over the last year and a half. Last year, that country alone recorded 668 white rhinos poached, as well as 446 white rhinos slaughtered in the first six months of this year, the US embassy said in a statement. That compares to 448 dead in 2011 and 333 dead in 2009.
Before 2008, the highest poaching toll since about 1990 was largely just in the single digits, says Hoover.
The dramatic uptick in killings stems from a catastrophic collision of two factors: booming wealth in Asia, especially in recently prosperous Vietnam, and the branding of crushed rhino horn folk remedies, says Hoover.
“Historically, the horn has been used as a fever reducer in Asia,” says Hoover. “But that’s not new. What is new is that rhino horn has suddenly became the cool thing, particularly in Vietnam, for things like a hangover cure or a cancer cure – none of which is grounded in any research or scientific fact.”
At this point, a kilogram of rhino horn commands about $60,000 to $65,000, making rhino horn worth more by weight than gold, according to US Fish and Wildlife Service. Rhino horn is made of keratin, the protein in human fingernails, and, if not for the puffed-up demand, would not be valuable.