Rhino horn poisoned to curb poaching

2013-09-11 00:00

DESPERATE measures are being taken by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to halt the rampant poaching of rhino.

The organisation yesterday became the first state conservation agency in Africa to experiment with the poisoning of rhino horn in a bid to halt the poaching onslaught.

So far this year 619 rhino have been killed by poachers in South Africa, of which 63 were slain in KZN.

In a bid to make the horn unsafe for human consumption, a “toxic infusion” said to be harmless to the rhinos, consisting of a poisonous insecticide and an indelible dye, was injected into the horns of both white and black rhinos at Tembe Elephant Park and Ndumo Game Reserve on the Mozambique border.

Depending on the results, EKZNW may consider expanding the “toxic infusion” programme to other rhino populations in future.

Spearheading the trial are doctors Charles van Niekerk and Lorinda Hern of the Gauteng-based Rhino Rescue Project. The funding for the experiment is being provided by the Peace Parks Foundation, and ongoing research will be headed by Dr Richard Burroughs of Pretoria University, which is also a partner.

The Rhino Rescue Project has been experimenting similarly on private reserves in Limpopo and the North West Province for the past two-and-a-half years and reports “positive feedback”.

Van Niekerk said the poison can be safely and “relatively quickly” injected into the base of the horn. It spreads through the keratin protein that comprises a horn, which then becomes “extremely toxic”.

Van Niekerk said the dye is designed to act as a warning to end-users that the horn is contaminated and is not fit for human consumption.

He said the dye is visible on an x-ray scanner even when the horn is ground to a fine powder, ensuring that there is little chance of it getting through airport security checks undetected.

As part of the pilot project, each treated rhino will have its DNA recorded and transponders inserted, which are all additional deterrents to poaching.

EKZNW said Tembe and Ndumo reserves were selected because they are considered the “frontline of future rhino poaching in KZN”.

The cost of treating one rhino horn is estimated at R8 000. Peace Parks Foundation said it sourced the money from partners including Neville and Pamela Isdell, the Liberty Wildlife Fund and the Sophia Foundation.

They have also set up a dedicated account from which 100% of any donation will be allocated to the project. Details of the fund can be found on www.peaceparks.org.

Peace Parks CEO Werner Myburgh said the risks will soon start outweighing the rewards for criminal syndicates as rhino horn is devalued.

MEC for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs Dr Meshack Radebe has also hailed the project as an “outstanding experiment”.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.