This Photographer Collects Human Fingernails So People Stop Killing Rhinos
More than 1,000 rhinos were killed in 2018 for their horns, which have the same properties as human fingernails.
This man is collecting human fingernails to prevent people from killing rhinos and using their horns for medicinal purposes.
Swedish wildlife photographer Björn Persson started the project in his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden after noticing a decrease in the rhino population he regularly photographs.
Rhino horns and human fingernails are both made from keratin, which some groups on China and Vietnam believe is a cure for everything from hangovers to cancer. The use of rhino horns in medicine was illegal in China until 2018 — but since its legalization, usage rates have skyrocketed.
Approximately 1,100 rhinos were killed in 2018 for their horns, and there are currently less than 30,000 of them left in the world.
“A lot of people don’t know about what’s going on in China and Vietnam, where rhino horns [are] being used as a traditional medicine,” Persson said. “But the funny thing is that this medicine, you know, the rhino horn, consists of the exact same material as our own fingernails, and that’s why we’re doing this.”
To emphasize his point, Persson is collecting people’s fingernails, intent on making medicine out of them and selling it in China and Vietnam as a rhino horn substitute. He has people come into his studio to have their nails cut. Each piece then goes toward creating the new medicine.
Persson has already collected thousands of dollars’ worth of keratin in Sweden and hopes to eventually expand his operation.
“We need to create the debate in the world, we need to spread awareness about what’s going on, because the rhinos, they are killed for nothing,” he said. “It’s a meaningless extinction.”