Not very long ago, several conservationists suggested that making rhinos look less like themselves and more like unicorns might help keep poachers at bay.Granted, this idea was merely meant to stir some laughs, but there might have been some truth in it: as long as poachers can no longer look at a rhino and see it as their new meal ticket, then the species could escape extinction.
This is precisely what a group of conservationists looking after South Africa's rhinos now wish to do: make rhino horns unusable to medicine and easy to find by authorities, all with the help of a poison and a bright pink dye.
Their plan is fairly simple, which is why it might actually work.
Thus, they hope that, by injecting rhino horns with a poison that does not harm the animal, but which negatively impacts on humans, these animals will no longer be of any use to those who manufacture various “cures” from their body parts.
Furthermore, a bright pink dye, similar to that used to mark banknotes, will make it easier for airport security employees to identify any illegal rhino horn shipments, whether or not the horn was grinded into a fine powder or left intact, PopSci reports.
“Education would go a long way towards teaching consumers that rhino horn contains no nutritional or medicinal value, however, education will not produce an immediate result, and results are what we need at this point,” the Rhino Rescue Project explains.
“We soon realized that the treatment of the horns, along with an indelible dye, would go a long way towards helping us achieve our goal of protecting all rhino’s in South Africa from poaching,” they went on to add.
For the time being, these innovative methods of safeguarding rhinos and perhaps other endangered species such as elephants are undergoing extensive testing so as to make sure that neither the poison injected in their horn, nor the dye harms the animals they are supposed to protect.
The Rhino Rescue Project also wishes to fit horns with GPS chips, and set up a DNA database for the rhino population now living in South Africa.