Press release

Stockpile of rhino horn burned in the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic

More than 33 kilograms of rhino horn was burned in the Dvůr Králové Zoo on the 19th September – only three days before the World Rhino Day and a few weeks after the first official rhino horn auction in the South Africa. The stockpile was ignited by a world-renowned conservationist Richard Leakey, together with a Czech model Veronica Varekova and a Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu.

“Many people cannot understand why destroying is the best thing to do with the rhino horns. When we burned ivory in Kenya at the end of the 1980's, its price dropped rapidly in about half a year as the demand for it was dramatically reduced. Apparently, people have already begun to realize that the cost for purchasing ivory items is animal lives," said Richard Leakey during the ceremony.  

The Burn Horns Save Rhinos campaign was organised by the Dvur Kralove Zoo in collaboration with the Customs Administration of the Czech Republic for the second time. In 2014, more than 50 kilograms were destroyed here. "If we do not fight the trade in rhino horn, the time will come soon when rhino completely disappears from our planet. By burning rhino horn we want to send the world a clear message that horns belong to rhinos and not to people" said the director of the Dvůr Králové Zoo Přemysl Rabas at the beginning of the ceremony.

The Dvůr Králové Zoo conducts long-term efforts to save rhinos in the wild and wants to bring attention to the plight of rhinos worldwide. The zoo´s attempts were supported by presence of renowned conservationists on Tuesday. Apart from Richard Leakey, the pile was ignited by Veronika Varekova, a Czech model as well as a Member of the African Wildlife Foundation board of trustees, and Paula Kahumbu, a Kenya’s prominent conservationist.

"We meet today for one simple reason - to show that the Czech Republic can be an important player in the field of nature conservation. While in South Africa in these days, unfortunately, the first legal auctions of horns are taking place, we are destroying the rhino horn to symbolically point out that the trade in rhino horn is totally meaningless. I thank the Dvůr Králové Zoo for what it does,“ said Veronica Varekova during her speech.

The killing of rhinoceroses is a direct consequence of high demand for and trade in horns. Although it has been scientifically proven that the use of rhino horn has no curative effects attributed to it, it is still highly valued in the East Asian markets. Also, the situation is complicated by the fact that the ban on domestic trade in rhino horns has been lifted in South Africa.

“We have already seen the damage a legal market can do with the elephant ivory trade over the past 25 years,” said Veronica Varekova on behalf of the African Wildlife Foundation. “The legal trade has muddied the waters for law enforcement combating illegal ivory trafficking, while removing the stigma once attached to owning, buying and selling ivory. This strategy has ultimately proven ineffective in stopping elephant poaching, and there is no reason to expect a different outcome for Africa’s rhino.”

"Share your photos and videos on social networks to pass on the report of today's event. The Burn Horns Save Rhinos campaign, which we are all part of today, can help stop the slaughter of rhinos. We will be sending this message together to the world,” pronounced her wish Paula Kahumbu, one of the most influential conservationist in Kenya.

Jane Goodall, Thu Minh, Ian Craig, Monika Leova and others supported the rhino horn burning in the Dvůr Králové Zoo as well. More information can be found at


Richard Leakey – a Kenyan anthropologist, conservationist and politician. He became famous for his paleontological discoveries in East Africa. For nearly twenty years, he served as the director of the National Museums of Kenya. At the end of the 1980s, he became head of the government department, which he rebuilt in the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) dedicated to protecting the Kenyan wilderness. Being the crucial person behind significant reduction of poaching in Kenya, he initiated campaigns to save wildlife and organised the very first ivory and rhino horn burnings in the world. For his whole life, he has been fighting corruption. In 1993, he suffered a serious airplane accident causing his both legs to be amputated. It has never been conclusively confirmed whether this was an attemp to assassinate him or a plane defect. One year after the accident, Leakey resigned from his position at KWS and began to engage in politics, writing and lecturing at universities. He has repeatedly returned to KWS, currently serving as a chairman of the board. He also continues in his anthropological work, lectures at Stony Brook University in the US and is still involved in research at Lake Turkana.

Paula Kahumbu – a Kenyan conservationist. Paula is currently leading the Kenyan NGO Wildlife Direct and the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign that aims at involving local communities in the protection of elephants. Among other activities, her organization in Kenya monitors court trials with persons accused of wildlife crimes. Paula Kahumbu, as well as Richard Leakey, worked for Kenya Wildlife Service. In addition to nature conservation, she divides her time between writing and work for the University of Princeton.

Veronica Varekova – a world top model of Czech origin, who is dedicated to nature protection in Africa. She is a former Victoria’s Secret model and Sports Illustrated cover girl. At present, Veronica Varekova is a Member of the African Wildlife Foundation board of trustees. The organisation is committed to sustainable development in Africa and she focuses mainly on nature conservation issues. Veronica has been working with the Dvůr Králové Zoo to save rhinos in the wild and to support their return from the zoo back to Africa. In the Czech Republic, she has been active in an SOS village project for families and children in need and became a patron of the Infantry Institute in Olomouc.