Rhino Poaching - A solution exists
The Rhino Rescue Project (RRP) is a registered non-profit organization in South Africa active in the fight against poaching of rhinos in Africa. In the last 3 years, RRP have produced an ectoparasiticide that can effectively be used for the combating of Rhino Poaching. It is estimated that 90% of the market for rhino horn is from the Far East, where powdered rhino horn is believed to cure diseases ranging from a high fever to cancer. This has been medically proven to be untrue. With Rhino horn being made principally of keratin, similar to the hair and nails found on most mammals including ourselves.
Although education in Asia continues, losing more than 600 rhino a year is not an option, therefore the Rhino Rescue Project is urging custodians of rhino populations to take action.
Traditional methods of rhino conservation are falling short of protecting these animals. Although it is critical that patrols, aerial surveillance, etc continue, we believe there is now a way to destroy the market for rhino horn forever. We need to attack the economics of the situation, or the demand. By treating rhino horn with the ectoparasiticide developed by the Rhino Rescue Project, the demand for Rhino Horn can be destroyed forever by making the horn unsuitable for human consumption.
The Treatment and Process
Each rhino is darted. Whilst the animal is anathematized, the following procedures are performed:
* The ears are notched if this is not done already, which allows accurate identification of the animal in the field.
* A hole is drilled above the growth line of the horn and into this hole one or more microchips are inserted into the horn. These microchips allow for the tracking of the horn.
* There is a DNA sample taken which is sent through to the RODIS data base. RODIS is a global data base where all rhino in the world can be stored. This database is essential for prosecution of captured poachers. If an animal is poached and the horn recovered, it can be traced to exactly where the animal/horn is from. The RODIS database is also useful in genetic diversity studies and population placement of rhino.
* Ectoparasiticide is then injected under pressure into the horn. This ectoparasiticide is then absorbed by the entire horn, and remains effective in the animal for 4 to 7 years. This is the variable time taken for the entire horn to grow out. Ectoparasiticide makes the horn unsuitable for human consumption, with the result that if the horn is consumed by a human, they would become very ill, leading to diarrhea, nausea and in extreme cases convulsions and nerve disorders.
* A dye is also inserted into the horn, which if the horn is cut through (should the animal be poached) has a red colour to it. This warns any buyer of the rhino horn that this horn is treated and not suitable for human consumption. In addition, signs are put up stating that the rhino in this reserve are treated and therefore should not be poached as they are unsuitable for the market of Asian medicine/human consumption.
Effect of the treatment on the environment
In the event of the natural death of the rhino, the animal can be consumed by vultures, hyaenas and other carnivores, without having a negative effect on them.
The result of this treatment
To date none of the rhinos treated by the Rhino Rescue Project have been poached.
The ultimate goal
The ultimate goal is to destroy the market for rhino horn forever so that rhinos around the world are no longer poached. With less/no demand, the price for rhino horn will decrease and therefore poachers will have less incentive for poaching the animals and risking potential death or criminal prosecution by anti-poaching scouts.
With less demand and less poachers, the safety of scouts involved in protecting our animals will be improved. In the future, anti-poaching costs may be reduced and the cost of looking after rhinos also be reduced.
Treatment in animals
Almost 200 animals in Africa have been treated with the Rhino Rescue ectoparasiticide. These animals range from animals in zoos to animals, sate owned animals and animals in private reserves. Every rhino is a candidate for receiving this treatment.
With animals in South Africa being owned by the land owner, it is possible to insure them. The world's biggest insurer AON will provide hugely discounted rates when they insure rhinos which are treated with the ectoparasiticide technology used by the Rhino Rescue Project. This further proves that there is no harm whatsoever to animals that are treated with the treatment. No business would insure animals if the treatment would harm the animals they are insuring.
The role with Wildlife Services
The benefit for the global rhino community is that the more rhinos treated around the world, the more effective this treatment will be in destroying the market for rhino horn forever.
The RRP treatment is also extremely effective in relocating rhinos to new areas. These animals are anathematized anyway and it is best to treat the animals before they are released into the new areas.
The RRP treatment can be used universally for entire countries or as a strategy per reserve, per area or per population.
The cost for the treatment of the RRP treatment will be greatly reduced when entire populations are treated, as opposed to single animals. Treatments are generally less than 1000 USD per animal. As mentioned above, each treatment lasts for 4-7 years.
Due to the fact that the RRP is an NGO, the input costs would be assessed and a quote provided purely to defray costs incurred.
Acceptance of the Treatment
There has been steady uptake of the RRP treatment, with animals being treated as far afield as European zoos, as well as entire countries. Malawi as an example is in the process of adopting the technology such that every rhino in the country will be treated with the RRP. There is a similar process being followed for the rhinos in Uganda.
With Rhino Rescue Project being an NGO, the idea is to aid rhinos and not make money from the treatment. There are numerous projects that await funding before they can be concluded.
Conclusion & Next steps
We would like to work with Wildlife Services and conservation communities in Africa. It would be an honour and privilege to be of service and we would encourage each case be taken and assessed on its own merits. It is believed that together we are stronger in combating this scourge and that with continual pressure and application of the Rhino Rescue Project, we can ultimately destroy the market for rhino horn forever.