SA goes high-tech to save rhino

Cape Town - South Africa has tightened rules on rhino hunts and will use micro-chips and DNA profiling to counter a poaching bloodbath that has killed 171 animals this year, the environment minister said on Monday.

New rules now allow hunters to kill only one white rhino in a year and officials must consider whether an applicant's home country has enough legislation to counter illicit trophy trade.

"The new norms and standards will strengthen the regulatory framework in terms of monitoring the legality of hunts and control over rhino horns," said Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

"Stricter provisions relating to hunting were required to ensure processes are standardised and to reduce possible abuse of the system," she added.

With fears over bogus trophy hunts, would-be hunters must now belong to a recognised hunting association in their home country and supply a hunting curriculum vitae and a copy of their passport.

Any trophy must be micro-chipped by an official who will keep a sample of the horn. Hunters must have international export permits relating to trade in endangered species.

All rhino that are sold or moved must be fitted with a micro-chip in the left shoulder and in both of their two horns, and any horns removed legally for trophies or found through natural death must also have a chip.

Any horn longer than 5cm must also be marked with a serial number, date and weight which will be kept in a national database.

Blood and horn samples of live rhino that have been darted to be moved or treated must be also be collected for DNA profiling.

South Africa lost 448 rhino last year, with poachers hacking off the horns to sell in Asia where they are used in traditional medicine in the false belief that they have powerful healing properties.

The critically endangered black rhino will no longer be hunted for trophies, said department spokesperson Albi Modise.

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