Photo: World Wildlife
Conservationists in South Africa have come up with a new way to protect the local rhinoceros from poachers: make their horns bright pink and poisonous, reports Popular Science.Rhino horns are highly sought for their use in traditional Chinese medicine. A common misconception suggests they are also used as an aphrodisiac, but the tradition in Chinese medicine is actually to take the powdered horn to cure fever and convulsions.
There is no evidence to support that the rhino horns hold any magical or medicinal properties. In fact the horn is made out of keratin, the same protein that makes up your hair and nails, and the amount of keratin given through the medicine is equivalent to chewing on your fingernails.
400 rhinos were murdered in South Africa in 2011, and this year the count is up to 200. The problem has gotten so bad that to stop poachers some conservationists are suggesting huge projects such as implanting GPS trackers to follow the rhinos.
Instead of tracking the animals, The Rhino Rescue Project wants to discourage poachers from killing them by injecting dye and possibly even poison into the rhino’s horns. They plan to infuse it “into the horn using a patented high-pressure device,” which would make the horn unsuitable and even toxic to humans.
The high pressure device would not cause any harm to the rhino. Also, the dye they would use is similar to the dye used in ink packs to secure money at the bank, and the poison would be one designed to kill parasites, neither of which have negative side effects on the rhino or other animals in its ecosystem.
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