The fight to save our rhinos is getting an upgrade. Researchers have introduced new and impressive technology, complete with top-secret spy cameras, as one last drastic effort to save rhinos from extinction.
“Rapid Renders Poaching a Pointless Exercise”
As reported in The Independent, under the new technology, endangered rhinos will have spy cams fitted on their horns to catch poachers in the act, and, ultimately, convict them. An alarm will also be connected to a heart-rate monitor and a satellite-tracking device to pinpoint the poachers in real-time. Rangers will use helicopters to trap poachers before they can escape or before they can “harvest the valuable parts of an animal.”
Chester University’s Dr Paul O’Donoghue created the technology, known as Rapid (Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device), out of necessity. After 15 years on the field, he knew that things were getting worse for rhinos. Rapid should be introduced in South Africa as early as next year. The plan is to expand the sophisticated technology to other vulnerable wildlife, including elephants and tigers. O’Donoghue has faith that the technology he developed can end rhino poaching. “You can’t outrun a helicopter,” he says. “Rapid renders poaching a pointless exercise.”
But we all know that the death of poaching will only really come when the demand for rhino horn ends. As Yao Ming says, “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”
2 Drastic and Controversial Measures to Protect Rhinos
Prior to the introduction of Rapid, conservationists tried controversial anti-poaching measures. In 2013, a game reserve in South Africa took the unconventional approach of poisoning rhino horns, as to render them useless for human consumption. As reported in The Guardian, rhino protectors concocted “a mix of parasiticides and indelible pink dye” and injected it into the horn. Anyone that would consume it would become seriously ill — the side effects included nausea, stomach ache and diarrhea. Fortunately, the mix wasn’t lethal to humans.
Another controversial method conservationists have tried is dehorning — removing around 90 percent of a rhino’s horn. According to Save the Rhino, dehorning has a place in rhino conservation, but it should be a last resort, and it isn’t a magic bullet. Dehorning is actually worthless, they argue, without “extensive anti-poaching security and monitoring efforts” and a “publicity drive to ensure that poachers are aware that the rhinos have been dehorned.”
However, poachers have still been known to attack dehorned rhinos, since rhino horn stub will still bring in a lot of money. And unfortunately, some poachers will kill a dehorned rhino out of vengeance.
Horns also grow back quickly for dehorned rhinos, and the invasive and expensive procedure has to occur every 12-24 months in order to be effective. There’s always the risk that a rhino will die on the operating table. And we’re still not sure how dehorning affects the rhino; they use their horns to protect themselves, their young and territory and to forage.
Desperate Times for Rhinos Call for Desperate Measures
In one way or another, all of these measures seem drastic. But desperate times for rhinos call for desperate measures. If you think the measures to protect rhinos are crazy, consider why they’re being poached. Rhino horn is turned into a powder with supposed magical and healing properties; it has been touted as an aphrodisiac and a sexual stimulant. The truth is that rhino horn has been proven to be as sexy as the material in your hair strand or fingernail — all three are made of the same material: keratin.
But when a rhino is killed every six hours in Africa, it’s clear that we have to take this seriously and we don’t have a minute to lose. At the start of the twentieth century, 500,000 rhinos roamed throughout Africa and Asia. Today’s figures are shameful — Sudan is the last male northern white rhino left in the world –
and three of the five rhino species are classified as critically endangered.
I don’t want to picture a world without rhinos. If new technology can save a rhino’s life, then it’s OK in my book. It’s sad to think how far greed has gotten us, and how dearly beautiful rhinos have paid for our mistakes.