The owner of a South African game reserve intends to inject his rhino’s horns with poison to deter poachers.
Ed Hern, owner of the Rhino and Lion Reserve near Johannesburg, hopes this extreme measure will dissuade poachers who have slaughtered more than 150 rhinos this year.
He believes the only way to stop the thriving black market trade would be to make the horns deadly to humans.
“The aim would be to kill, or make seriously ill anyone who consumes the horn,” Hern said.
“If someone in China eats it and gets violently sick, they’re not going to buy it again.”
In China, powdered rhino horn is believed to be an aphrodisiac and recent demand has led to a dramatic new wave of rhino poaching across South African game parks.
The animals, including the critically endangered black rhino, are being massacred at the rate of two or three a week with horns fetching up to £45,000 on the black market.
Poachers use helicopters and night vision equipment to track down and target their prey, with more than 150 killed this year.
Hern’s idea to poison the horns of his herd of white rhino has provoked uproar among conservationists although he claims the animals will not be harmed.
“We are experimenting by injecting a little of the substance every day into one of the rhino, and monitoring him carefully for any effects,” Hern said.
He admitted while his plan might seem barbaric, he stressed “what’s really outrageous is the sight of a dead rhino with its horn sawn off”.
On July 16th a mother rhino was found dead in the Krugersdorp park, her horn removed with her orphaned calf left starving and dazed.
Three orphaned rhino calves, including the nine-month-old rescued in Krugersdorp, are now being hand reared at Hern’s reserve. The babies were only spared their parent’s fate because their horns were too small to interest poachers.
Research has proved the keratin inside rhino horns has no medicinal value yet myth surrounding its properties continues to drive illegal trade.
By Ashley Hamer
Images courtesy of Save the Rhino