Updated on March 27, 2013
Advancements in Combatting Rhino Poaching
I recently spoke with a school-friend who is from and currently lives/works in South Africa. I came across an article about South Africa throwing around the idea of legalizing rhino horn, in an effort to save the species by having more control over the market. While rhino horn trade should not exist in the first place, this seems like a way to faster curtail the poaching, rather than wait for a culture to change its viewpoints and demand (rhino horn is highly priced in Asia – some quotes are at $1400 per ounce and sought after for unproven medicinal purposes).
I forwarded the info to my friend to ask her opinion, and she told me about a process that South African vets are now taking part in to render the rhino’s horn useless for its desired purposes. Vets will tranquilize the rhino and pressure-inject its horn with an anti-fungal used for cow horns. This treatment, which I learned a little more about via google search, discolors the inside of the horn – making it undesirable for making ornaments. Barium can also be injected, which shows up on xrays if the someone attempts to smuggle horns through airports. Vets are also implanting GPS chips into the horns, so they can be tracked. Finally, and the best part, in my opinion:
“… they add a non-lethal poison, a common veterinary anti-tick medicine that causes nausea and convulsions in humans but is harmless for treated rhinos, to deter anyone from grinding up the horns for traditional medicines. Then they’ve used conspicuous signs and the ‘bush telegraph’ (word of mouth) is used to spread the word that the rhino horns are worthless to poachers. The anecdotal evidence, so far, has been good, claims the Reserve: ‘Not a single treated animal has been poached since administration of the treatment.'” (from Fastcoexist)
If you want to be disgusted and see why poaching rhinos is so awful (aside from the fact they are at a critical or endangered status), see my post from 2011: The Dark Side of Human Nature