By Elizabeth Gordon
Rhino horn is now more expensive (by weight) than gold or cocaine and as a result rhino poaching is reaching epidemic proportions. The number of rhino's lost to poaching in South Africa climbed from 300 in 2010 to 668 in 2012! 232 rhinos have already been killed in 2013. And these numbers only represent South Africa! Rhino poaching is on the rise in East Africa as well.
There has been a lot of recent coverage of the increase in poaching of both rhinos and elephants (from the BBC to the New York Times to National Geographic) but as far as I'm concerned there can't be too much attention on this issue, so here's my contribution.
Today I want to talk about the Rhino Rescue Project (RRP), which is spear-heading a new and unique effort to prevent poaching in reserves around Kruger National Park in South Africa.
The idea is essentially to poison the horn to eliminate the its value
In addition to its ornamental value, much of the rhino horn that is sold illegally is consumed. RRP realized that if they could make the horn indigestible it would decrease the demand, so they decided to infuse into the wild rhino horns the same ectoparasiticide used to control ecto-parasites like ticks in captive rhinos, effectively making the horn toxic.
After some additional research and consultation they decided to add an indelible dye to the infusion, similar to products used in the banking industry to prevent counterfeiting. The dye is visible on an x-ray scanner even when ground to a fine powder so airport security checkpoints can pick up the presence of a treated horn whether the horn is intact or in powder form. More....