By Martin Angler
What do gold, platinum and rhino horn have in common? They are among the most expensive materials in the world – and rhino horn is the leader of the group.
In late 2011, according to National Geographic Magazine, the street price of rhino horn in Vietnam was between $33 and $133 a gram. In South Africa, it currently costs about $65 a gram, three times more than a whole South African white rhino.
No wonder rhino poaching is continually increasing, with 333 South African rhino poached in 2010, 448 in 2011 and 668 in 2012. The South African government's latest statistics show that, by the end of last month, 394 rhinos had been poached in the country.
This high demand for rhino horn is not new. In many Asian countries, especially in Vietnam, rhino horn powder is used to "cure" diseases such as cancer, to treat hangovers, improve concentration and as an aphrodisiac. However, there is no scientific evidence that it works.
In South Africa, according to the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, more than 50% of Asians caught in connection with rhino poaching last year were Vietnamese citizens.
The Rhino Rescue Project (RRP) was established to stop rhino poaching pre-emptively. Its founders, Ed and Lorinda Hern of the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in Krugersdorp, and veterinarian Charles van Niekerk, developed a device that injects red dye into rhino horns – the same type of indelible dye that is used to ruin stolen bank notes and tag bank robbers.
RRP spokesperson Lorinda Hern did not want to divulge the name of the product for security reasons, but it is similar to industry products such as Disperse Red 9, also known as 1-methylamino anthraquinone. More....