A real wildlife problem gets a solution that just might work!…. Radical scheme will inject horns with parasiticides and pink dye in bid to safeguard rhino numbers. The Guardian reports
A game reserve in South Africa has taken the radical step of poisoning rhino horns so that people risk becoming “seriously ill” if they consume them.
Sabi Sand said it had injected a mix of parasiticides and indelible pink dye into more than 100 rhinos’ horns over the past 18 months to combat international poaching syndicates. More than 200 rhinos have been poached so far this year in South Africa, driven by demand in the far east, where horn ground into powder is seen as a delicacy or traditional medicine.
“Consumers of the powdered horn in Asia risk becoming seriously ill from ingesting a so-called medicinal product, which is now contaminated with a non-lethal chemical package,” said Andrew Parker, chief executive of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin Association, a group of private landowners in Mpumalanga province.
The “toxification” process involves tranquilising a rhino, drilling a hole in its horn then injecting the dye and parasiticides generally used to control ticks on animals such as horses, cattle and sheep; it is toxic to humans. “It’ll make [people] very ill – nausea, stomach ache, diarrhoea – it won’t kill them,” Parker continued. “It will be very visible, so it would take a very stupid consumer to consume this.”
Asked if he had any moral qualms about harming potentially naive consumers, Parker replied: “The practice is legal. The chemicals are available over the counter. We are advertising it, doing a media run now and putting up signs on our fences. If somebody does consume it, they won’t die and hopefully word will spread that you shouldn’t take rhino horn.”
The dye can be detected by airport scanners as well as when the horn is ground into a powder.
Up to 1,000 rhinos will die this year, Parker said, so bold action was necessary. “Despite all the interventions by police, the body count has continued to climb. Everything we’ve tried has not been working and for poachers it has become a low-risk, high-reward ratio. By contaminating the horn, you reduce the reward and the horn becomes a valueless product.
“If the poacher hacks off the horn, he’ll immediately see it’s contaminated. We’re saying to the poachers: ‘Don’t bother coming to Sabi Sand. You’re wasting your time.’”
But the scheme got a mixed reception from Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network. Tom Milliken, its rhino programme coordinator, said it could act as a deterrent in areas where it is highly publicised but “is impractical in situations involving free-ranging animals in large areas, places like Kruger national park with 20,000 sq km. Thus, like dehorning, it probably has the effect of displacing poaching intensity to other areas, not stopping it altogether.”
Milliken, author of a report on rhino-horn consumption in Vietnam, also expressed concerns about the end-user market: “One wonders if unscrupulous dealers in these markets will not simply employ some means to ‘bleach’ them to back to a ‘normal’ appearance and continue raking in high profits.”
“These dealers are already perpetuating fraud on so many levels in the interest of windfall profits, so it’s hard to imagine that they will suddenly be bothered about putting potentially toxic horns into circulation. The prospect of human suffering deters few criminals and that’s what we are dealing with here.”
South Africa National Parks has backed the initiative but spokesman Ike Phaahla admitted that it would be “virtually impossible” to apply the process to all the rhinos in national parks because of lack of resources.
The government said this week that 203 rhinos have been killed by poachers so far this year, including 145 in Kruger park. Sixty suspected poachers have been arrested.
- Innovation And Toxic Hope (raxacollective.wordpress.com)
- Wildlife Managers Are Poisoning Rhino Horns to Stop People From Eating Them (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)
- Mozambican rhino poacher jailed for 15 years (thezimbabwean.co.uk)
- Rhino horn worth $2.75 million stolen from ranch (wildlifenews.co.uk)
- South African minister backs legalisation of rhino horn trade (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
India Monday lost its ninth rhino to poaching so far this year within the northern state of Assam. ENN reports
The greater-one horned, or Indian rhino, was found shot dead with its horn removed in Kaziranga National Park. Seven other rhinos have already been killed in the park during 2013, and an additional rhino was poached last month in Manas National Park.
Officials are concerned about the increasing use of sophisticated weapons by poachers. Many of the Assam’s rhinos have been gunned down by Kalashnikov rifles. The state has approximately 2,500 rhinos remaining after losing 21 to poachers last year.
The use of high-powered weapons enables poachers to kill the rhinos quickly, cut off their horns and flee before the forest guards can get to the scene.
The proximity of Assam to India’s porous international borders with neighbours such as Bangladesh and Myanmar is believed to contribute to availability of arms and also enables poaching gangs access international criminal syndicates engaging in wildlife smuggling.
The primary destination for rhino horns is Viet Nam, where new medical and social uses have emerged in recent years. According to a recent TRAFFIC report, consumers in Viet Nam are willing to pay extremely high prices for medicines made with rhino horn in the mistaken belief that it can cure a number of diseases.
Rising illicit demand for rhino horn has pushed poaching of African rhinos to crisis levels. Poaching statistics released recently by the South African government reveal that a record 668 rhinos were killed across the country in 2012, an increase of nearly 50 per cent from the 448 rhinos lost to poachers in 2011.
- Kaziranga National Park begins promised rhino survey (wildlifenews.co.uk)
- Poachers already killed 15 rare rhinos in northeast Indian preserve in 2013 (rawstory.com)
- Poachers kill rare rhinos in India’s remote northeast (dawn.com)
- Poachers kill rare rhinos in India’s remote northeast (terradaily.com)
- Assam national park fails to protect rare rhinos from poachers (thetimes.co.uk)
- Horn Please! Rhino on the horizon (thehindu.com)
- Poaching to Cause Fall in Rhino Population within Two Years (scienceworldreport.com)
Good news to fight a bad problem…. South African farmer plans to put 30 drones in the air to help combat poachers. Anything to stop those who wish to slaughter these super-creatures is good ! The Guardian reports
He is now seeking clearance from local civil aviation authorities to put 30 of the drones in South African skies.
Radical solutions are needed, he argues, at the end of a year which has seen a record of more than 650 rhinos slaughtered for their horns to meet demand from the Far East.
Vivier believes the true figure may be closer to 1,000, a significant dent in a population of around 20,000. “We’re now eating into our capital of rhino,” he said. “From here they are heading rapidly towards extinction. Despite all our efforts, we’re just historians recording the demise of a species. We don’t have the numbers on the ground to see people and stop them killing the animals.”
Around 400 rhinos have been killed this year in the world-famous Kruger national park, which spans 2m hectares – impossible for a limited number of rangers to guard effectively. Vivier estimates it as the equivalent of a town with one policeman for every 100,000 houses, “all with the doors and windows and open and rhino horn inside”.
He continued: “We need to change the rules of the game. We need technology. The only thing that can see these people before they do the dirty deed is surveillance drones.”
The answer, he believes, is the unmanned Arcturus T-20, which, with a 17ft wingspan, can fly for 16 hours without refuelling at a height of 15,000 feet. Its lack of noise and infrared camera would be invaluable for spotting poachers at night. “It can tell whether a man is carrying a shovel or firearm and whether he has his finger on the trigger or not,” said Vivier, 65. “We can see the poacher but he can’t see us. We’re good at arresting them when we know where they are. Otherwise it’s a needle in a haystack.”
Vivier has spent two years in talks with civil aviation officials and is hopeful that he will soon get the green light for a six-month trial. He proposes 10 of the drones for Kruger park, and a further 20 for other vulnerable reserves in South Africa.
He estimates that each drone would cost roughly $300,000 (£184,445) to keep in the air for two years, making a total of around $9m (£5.53m).
“The drones are economical to fly and will get us information at a very low cost. We need this technology to put us in a position to catch the guys. We need to do it before they kill rhino. The drone is, in my opinion, the only solution. It is highly sophisticated and can see things no other technology can.”
After the worst rhino poaching year on record in South Africa, air technology is seen as a crucial preventative step. Earlier this month, a reconnaissance plane with surveillance equipment including thermal imaging began patrolling over Kruger park.
But Vivier believes such alternatives lack the Calfornia-built Arcturus T-20′s capability. “The smaller ones are like using a bucket to put out a fire at the Empire State building. We need fire engines. We’re now an inferno. If we don’t wake up and do something, the world will lose the rhino.”
He appealed for the US, UK or other countries to help raise the necessary funds. “The company making the drone has to be paid and we don’t have the money. We need the best technology because the criminals are sharp. We’ve had approval from the US state department and we’re trying to work with them. It’s a world problem and the rest of the world needs to help us.”
Vivier is among a group of rhino farmers who believe that legalising the trade in horn would thwart the black market and reduce poaching. Several conservation groups disagree and call for measures that will reduce demand in countries such as Vietnam, where horn is seen as a delicacy with health benefits.
Ike Phaahla, a spokesman for South African National Parks, welcomed moves to put eyes in the sky. “In the past three months that is a strategy we have decided to use,” he said. “We are able to use the intelligence to intercept the poachers, although you can’t have a silver bullet for this kind of thing.”
- Saving the rhino with surveillance drones (bfreenews.com)
- Google Pays for Drones To Bust African Rhino Poachers (slate.com)
- Record 618 South African Rhinos Poached for Horns in 2012, so far (newswatch.nationalgeographic.com)
- Poachers’ trade in rhino horn is ‘pushing species into decline’ (independent.co.uk)
- Rhinoceros may become a forgotten species if unchecked poaching continues in South Africa (vancouversun.com)
- South Africa To Use Aircraft Against Rhino Poachers (preciousjules1985.wordpress.com)
The Asian appetite for animal products is creating demand which, rumours have it, threaten zoos. What, if anything, can be done to reduce the demand?
What do YOU think? Comment below or at twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature
From The Independent
After a rumour that it could cure cancer, the horn is now worth more than $40,000 a kilo, and gangs have been breaking into museums and auction rooms in Britain and Europe to steal trophy rhinoceros heads. The fear is zoos – and live rhinos – may be next.
In an unprecedented alert, all 15 British zoos and wildlife and safari parks which hold rhinos – they have 85 animals between them – have been warned by the National Wildlife Crime Unit to tighten security and report anything suspicious to the police at once.
Concern is growing that criminals will try to break into a British zoo at night, kill or tranquillise rhinos, and cut off the horns. The potential profits might be very tempting, as a single big horn could weigh more than 5kg and be worth more than $200,000.
In the past four years rhino poaching has exploded in Africa – South Africa especially – going from a total of 13 animals killed for their horn in South Africa in 2007 to 448 in 2011, the highest number ever recorded. Twelve have already been killed in South Africa this year.
The head of Biaza (the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariaums), Miranda Stevenson, said she was “horrified” at the threat, but that, while security made it difficult to get into zoos, “it isn’t impossible. Rhinos are big animals and in good weather most zoos will leave them out at night.”
A source from a big zoo in southern England said: “We are aware of the warning but our security is pretty tight. We have keepers living on site and they make night patrols.”
Detectives first became aware of the threat to zoos after a man was caught trying to smuggle a rhino horn out of Britain to Asia – which turned out to have come from an animal which had died of natural causes in Colchester Zoo.
Powdered rhino horn has long been used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine, where it is reputed to lessen fevers.
However, an urban myth about a senior Vietnamese politician who reputedly had his cancer cured by rhino horn swept across Asia in 2008, even though the politician has never been identified or come forward.
Andrew McVey, Species Programme Manager at WWF-UK, said, “A lot of effort is going into addressing the poaching, but we have not been as successful as we would like to be,” he said.
The knock-on effects have involved almost 50 targeted burglaries of museums holding rhino heads in Britain and the Continent.
In February, the mounted head of a black rhino was taken from Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex, and in May a similar head was taken from the Educational Museum in Haslemere, Surrey.
- Medical myth is dooming the rhino to extinction (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- South Africa boosts rhino wardens (bbc.co.uk)
- Rhino Crisis Round Up: Hope for Asian Rhinos & More (planetsave.com)
- South Africa: 448 Rhinos Killed in 2011 [Warning: Graphic] (planetsave.com)
- Rhino Poaching Hits New Record High in South Africa (treehugger.com)
- Rhino horn price spike drives record poaching (go.theregister.com)
- Rhino poaching soars, horns worth more than gold (msnbc.msn.com)
- Desperation shows after black year for rhinos (earthtimes.org)
Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy
Can nobody stop it? Can no major political leader or other public figure realise what is happening and have the guts or find a moment to speak out about the horrific, heartless, headlong slaughter of the world’s rhinos which is now running out of control?
Yes of course, most people naturally have concerns at the moment which preclude worrying about the welfare of wildlife. But the rhino carnage now going on is different; in its scale, it is something quite new. Driven by an urban myth in Asia – that a Vietnamese politician had his liver cancer cured by powered rhino horn – the price of horn has shot up to about $38,000 per kilo, more than the price of cocaine, and approaching the price of gold. These lumberingly gentle, charismatic animals might as well be walking around with a solid gold nose, and as a result are being butchered as never before.
Last week I wrote about the fact that Vietnam’s own rhino, a subspecies of the Javan rhinoceros only discovered in 1988, had been wiped out by poachers for the traditional Asian medicine trade in a mere two decades, and suggested that this should make us think hard about ourselves as a species and our killer tendencies.
On the very day I wrote this, the world wildlife watchdog, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, announced that a further rhino subspecies, the western black rhino from West Africa, had also been driven extinct, while a third, the northern white rhino, last seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had “probably” been driven over the edge. In addition to that, the IUCN said, the Javan rhinoceros itself is teetering on the brink, probably down to about 40 individuals, in a single park in Indonesia.
In South Africa, a poaching war is in full swing now in supposed sanctuaries like the Kruger National Park; by the end of August, nearly 300 animals had been killed for their horn in South Africa this year alone and the final total will be much higher, probably more than 400 (between 2000 and 2007 it averaged 12). Even in Britain we are feeling the effects: several museums have been broken into and have had antique trophy rhino heads stolen for the horn.
Now comes even more disturbing news: a report from the Humane Society International, complete with sickening photographs, reveals that the latest trend is for poachers to use silent tranquiliser dart guns, rather than rifles, as the risk of detection by wildlife protection officials is less. So while the animals are still alive, the HSI report says, the poachers “use machetes and chainsaws to hack off their horns, leaving the animals to regain consciousness with hideous deep face wounds, massive blood loss and unimaginable pain”.
The executive director of HSI, Mark Jones, himself a vet, says: “The rhinos who die whilst still anaesthetised are the lucky ones.”
And all this for a myth. All this for the fable, long accepted in traditional Asian medicine, that rhino horn has curative properties. In fact, rhino horn is largely composed of keratin, the substance of which our fingernails and hair are made, and has no medicinal properties whatsoever. But the burgeoning Asian middle classes – those for whom traditional medicine is a way of life – have now gone from an ancient belief that the horn cures fevers, to believing that horn cures cancer, and are bidding the price up to spectacular and disastrous levels.
To its credit, the British Government three months ago began an initial protest about the situation, and at a committee meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) put forward a request – on behalf of the whole European Union – for Asian nations to mount awareness-raising campaigns, pointing out rhino horn’s non-existent medicinal virtues. There is a sensitivity about seeming to interfere in the internal affairs of countries like China and Vietnam, but Richard Benyon, the UK Wildlife minister, said: “The world community cannot sit back and just watch these species disappear.”
Yet disappearing they are. Of the five main rhinoceros species, all except one – the population of white rhinos in South Africa – are now threatened with extinction. It is happening before our eyes. These marvellous relicts of the age of megafauna, of the time of the mammoth and sabre-toothed tiger and other remarkable beasts which died out at the close of the last ice age, are coming to the end of their time on Earth, simply through naked human greed.
- Wildlife Update : Javan rhino driven to extinction in Vietnam – through poaching! (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Poaching update : Britain urges Asia to act over surging trade in rhinoceros horn (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Black, African…Extinct (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Chinese Medicine Driving Rhinos to Extinction (livescience.com)
- A rare rhino goes quietly in Vietnam (independent.co.uk)
- Flying rhinoceros (boingboing.net)
- 33 smuggled rhino horns seized (bbc.co.uk)
- Vietnam’s last rhino killed by poachers (cbc.ca)
- Poachers Push Wild Javan Rhino Into Extinction (naturesnewspaper.wordpress.com)