There has been quite an interesting development in the war surrounding rhino horn. The demand is mostly fueled by practitioners of traditional chinese medicine, who believe that powdered rhino horn can cure convulsions and fevers (the idea that it is used as an aphrodisiac seems to be a myth), although the material has been used before to create jewelry, sword handles, and other objects. The demand has become so high that rhino horn is know twice as valuable as gold. In fact, the Ipswich Museum reported last month that someone had broken into their museum and stole the horn off a 100 year old specimen! Collectors and other museums have been warned to use casts or mockups instead of the real thing for fear of attracting even more thefts.
Conservationists are worried. Poachers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their attacks on rhinos and owners and game operatives cannot protect their animals 24/7. There has been some discussion about legalizing the trade of rhino horns in order to impose regulations, but this measure doesn’t seem to be gathering much support. However, a new, quite novel idea has been invented by a few caretakers. They are going to make the rhinos poisonous. It’s doesn’t quite make sense at first, but, well, see for yourself (skip to 1:27 if you don’t want to see the introduction).
The idea is that, by treating the horns with a medicine designed to kill parasites (not cyanide, as the man in the video stated), the horns themselves would become poisonous. It shouldn’t hurt the animal itself, since the medicine would never actually get to the animal’s bloodstream, but anyone who ingests tainted horn would suffer from headaches and potentially serious convulsions. Ideally, patients would be scared to buy rhino horn, the demand would plummet, and poaching would stop. Furthermore, the medicine glows a bright neon pink when under airport scanners, which should hinder international trafficking.
It’s an… interesting idea. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s implemented, but if it is, poachers may have to think twice about the costs and benefits of hunting their prey.