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A Toxic Solution to Rhino Poaching in South Africaby Dalene Ingham-Brown

According to News24, Environmental protection organisations are unsure about whether the treatment of rhino horn with toxic substances is a safe, effective way to combat rhino poaching in South Africa. Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) are concerned that if the concoction makes humans sick, then surely it will make animals sick. "If they say it won't hurt the environment, they must be using a synthetic compound that hasn't been proven to be toxic to humans," said the Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies at the University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort.

The Rhino Rescue Project (RRP) recently treated animals at the Rhino and Lion Reserve in Kromdraai, north-west of Johannesburg, more than a year ago with the substance, and say that there appear to have been no negative behavioural or environmental effects.

Rhino Horn

Photo by Sias van Schalkwyk

The treatment is administered by injecting the solution into the horns, and is described as a cost-effective, long-lasting and immediate solution for private rhino owners who don’t have the protection of government assigned security forces to combat rhino poaching in South Africa. "What if the rhinos use their horns to scratch themselves? The toxins may enter the bloodstream and have an effect. Every rhino is an individual with unique behaviour. Our main concern is that this treatment is not damaging rhino or other wildlife." Says EWT's compliance and enforcement spokesperson Rynette Coetzee Lorinda Hern from RRP said that the project made an effort to use a combination of legal chemicals in order to create the treatment.

Richard Burroughs, director of the Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies  says, "It might be worthwhile, from a public relations point of view, to those who are reasonably informed. However, poachers are not informed and will still shoot rhinos." Richard went on to say that the way he sees it, it is the right of private owners to treat their animals for protection against rhino poaching in South Africa, but he doesn’t see it becoming national policy.

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