Going High-Tech in War Against Rhino Poachers

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CNN.com has an interesting article and video up about a new GPS tracking system that conservation officials are using in South Africa to stop rhino poaching.

They burrowed an eight centimeter hole [in the rhino's horn], about an inch wide. Inside they embedded a silver canister and then plugged up the incision with putty and wrapped some masking tape over the rhino horn, like a make-shift bush bandage. This radical surgery is an experiment that many in South Africa hope will help to curtail the massive surge in rhino poaching. More than 250 rhinos have been slaughtered for their horns this year, a huge increase compared to previous years.

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Ca_Vermonster's picture

I have a soft spot for the

I have a soft spot for the rhinos.  I live right down the road from the Wild Animal Park here in southern CA, and they have a breeding program for them.  There is one type, where there are only 8 of them in the world, and 2 or 3 of them are here.  That's simply amazing.  The good thing is that the breeding is going well with their 2 or 3 species of rhinos they have here, the bad thing is that it will be tough to ever release them into the wild. 

They'd just end up being shot again.  Very sad that all this happens simply because of a body part that is essentially the same thing as human fingernails.  Nothing magical about that.

hawkeye270's picture

Dehorning is pretty much the

Dehorning is pretty much the best way to keep rhinos from getting poached. You can put a GPS transmitter in a horn but that does not keep the rhino from getting poached... it just gives you information into where the horn goes in the days, weeks and months after the horn is removed. The worst part of that is that once it is discovered that the horn has been tampered with, it usually just gets thrown away so that the trafficers don't get caught. If you dehorn a rhino, than there is no incentive to poach it. It is pure economics. Many studies have shown that dehorning is a great way to stop poaching for this species. Yes, people on a photo safari want a picture of a big black rhino bull WITH its horn but if something is not done to stop the poaching, than no one is going to have a chance to see them in the wild ever again. I say lop off every rhino horn in Africa. It will keep the species from slipping into extinction... which is not what anyone wants. Although the poachers really don't care about anything but cash.

jim boyd's picture

Man, talk about a continent

Man, talk about a continent in turmoil!

It would seem it has always been that way - I recall forty years ago as a kid seeing stories that were more a less a repeat of this.

I would love for them to catch the people that do this but you wonder if the attempts to stop it are not just window dressing for the outside world... or maybe just to appease folks internally?

Who knows... maybe in time, even more sophisticated methods could be developed - like perhaps a camera that was the size of a pencil eraser that is implanted into the beast, looking forward, so that if he were slain at least they could record the process by which his horn was cut off?

Im astonished at how many

Im astonished at how many rhinos that have been poached, 250 this year alone.  Hasnt this always been a problem though. The tracking device clever yeah but it dont save the rhino from being poached it just tracks the horn after they are shot.  Oh by the way, they are asuming poachers do not watch tv or read the news.  Correct me if im wrong but now the poachers shoot the rhino, check to see if the horn has been to see if the horn has been tampered with and move on.  Maybe I am giving them too much credit for being crafty.  Maybe they experts are not giving them enough.  Surely just as the poachers are finding and watching the rhino so you would think they could be overwatched as well to locate them. Im sure there is something im missing.