Rhinos at ZuluWaters get horn infusions to save them from poachers

2014-02-19 00:00

VALENTINE’S Day may have been a day of relaxation and love for humans, but some rhinos were getting tough love — a lifesaving procedure to protect their horns from poachers.

The owners of the ZuluWaters Private Game Reserve took measures to treat their rhinos with the method of horn infusion, which makes the rhino horn useless for consumption if poached.

The Rhino Rescue Project was instrumental in performing the procedure on the animals, and after tracking them down and anaesthetising them, they underwent the procedure, which is relatively painless.

The strategy of rhino horn infusion was developed by Dr Charles van Niekerk and Lorinda Hern of the Rhino Rescue Project as a way to make rhino horns valueless to the market and therefore pro-actively protect the rhino from being poached.

The method uses an ecto-parasiticide with an indelible pink dye, which is mixed together and then infused into the core of the rhino’s horn. The toxin is not toxic to the animals but it can be very dangerous to humans if ingested.

The dye used is similar to that in the banking industry and even if the horn is ground into a fine powder, can be detected by scanners and x-rays, making it impossible to clear airport security, as it cannot be removed in any way.

The first rhinos to undergo the procedure were those in the Ezemvelo game reserves closest to Mozambique. Here, the rhino poaching had become a big problem.

Anton Martyn, the general manager of ZuluWaters, said, “We took this decision because we wanted to take a proactive stance against the threat of poaching to our small rhino population on the reserve.

“By infusing the horns, it renders them valueless both for medicinal use, as well as ornamental use and so we decided on this method rather than dehorning.”

The horn treatment lasts approximately four years, after which the rhino will be re-treated.

“Rhino are an important part of our heritage and we need to safeguard them for future generations.

“By taking these proactive steps, we hope that we will achieve this”, Martyn said.

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