By Martin Angler
What do gold, platinum and rhino horn have in common? They are among the most expensive materials in the world – with rhino horn being the leader of this group. In late 2011, according to National Geographic Magazine, its Vietnam street price was between $33 and $133 per gram. In South Africa, it currently costs around $65 per gram – this is three times as much as a whole South African white rhino. No wonder rhino horn poaching is continuously increasing, with 333 poached South African rhino in 2010, 448 in 2011 and a total of 668 in 2012. The South African government’s latest statistics show that alone this year until March 15, 158 white rhinos have already been poached.
This high demand for rhino horns does not come out of the blue: In many Asian countries, especially in Vietnam, rhino horn powder is used to cure diseases like cancer or used to treat hangovers, improve concentration, and also as an aphrodisiac. However, there is absolutely no scientific evidence this actually works. According to the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, more than 50% of Asians caught in South Africa in 2012 were Vietnamese citizens. As a matter of fact, there even exists a You tube video from 2008 where Vietnamese diplomat Vu Moc Anh accepts a poached rhino horn delivered right to the Vietnamese embassy in South Africa.
In order to prevent poaching preemptively, the Rhino Rescue Project (RRP) was born. Its founders Ed and Lorinda Hern of the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve in Krugersdorp developed together with veterinarian Charles van Niekerk a device that injects red dye into rhino horns. Yes, it is exactly the kind of indelible dye that is used for ruining bank robbers’ prey and tagging the thieves. RRP’s spokeswoman Lorinda Hern didn’t want to share the exact name of the product due to security reasons, but it is known that it works similar as industry products like Disperse Red 9, which also goes under the name of 1-methylamino anthraquinone. More....