By Tony Carnie
South Africa has deployed a powerful and poisonous new weapon to stem the flow of rhino blood soaking into the country’s soil.
On Tuesday Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife took the step of being the first state conservation agency to inject a chemical cocktail into the horns of several rhinos in an effort to contaminate an illegal black market wildlife product, the price of which has shot through the roof in the Far East and fuelled a deadly war that has claimed another 620 rhinos in the first nine months of the year.
Although the poison is not intended to kill people who swallow crushed rhino horn potions, wildlife officials warned that it was “extremely toxic” and poisonous enough to make users of the illegal product seriously ill.
Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, nerve disorders and other dose-related health problems.
The first animals to undergo the treatment are on the front line of KwaZulu-Natal’s rhino war in the Tembe Elephant Park and Ndumo Game Reserve which lie on the northern border with Mozambique.
The horns will contain a bright red dye similar to the indelible marker dyes used to stain banknotes.
Apart from warning international crime syndicates and those using rhino-based traditional health remedies that the horns could be deadly, the dye can also be picked up on airport X-ray scanning machines – even if the horn is ground to powder. More....