But the white rhino’s omission from the act had meant that traffickers, if caught during transactions, could pass off any rhino horn as a white rhino's, says Craig Hoover, head of the wildlife trade and conservation branch of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Mr. Hoover notes that the white rhino’s horns are physically indistinguishable from those cut from the other rhinos.
“This is really to address what was a loophole in how we can regulate the movement of rhino horns in the US,” he says.
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.