The poisoning
of the horn

The poisoning of the horn

Poisoning the horn seems like a good solution, no one would want to consume a rhino horn that has toxic chemicals. If you look further you will also see that this solution is not without problems.

In 2010 the possibility of poisoning the horn appeared on a conservation scene for the first time. Ed Hern was the owner of the Rhino and Lion reserve near Johannesburg. He claimed to be planning to inject rhino's horns into his wild sanctuary with poison to keep poachers away. People who would subsequently consume the handset could die or become seriously ill.

Before starting this experimental method it was known that the poison is not harmful to the rhino itself. The horn has no direct access to the bloodstream. The exact effects of the poison on humans were still unknown. Poisoning the horn developed into the Rhino Rescue Project.

How does poisoning work?

During the poisoning process, holes are drilled directly into the horn, through which holes the horn is injected with highly toxic ectoparasiticides. These ectoparasiticides are also used to combat ticks and are not fatal to humans in small amounts. However, intake is toxic and may manifest itself in nausea, vomiting and convulsions, other symptoms may also occur depending on the dose taken. In addition to the horn poison, a project was started to inject the horns with dye to deter poachers. In most cases, there are signs in the reserves that warn that the rhino's horns have been treated.

The dilemmas of poisoning the horn.

In addition to the moral issues of poisoning people, there are disadvantages to this prevention method. The reason for poisoning horns is based on two assumptions. First, that poachers will be put off and rhinos with a poisoned horn will not poach. Secondly, that consumers do not buy the rhino horn for fear of taking poison.

Are poachers scared off by a poisoned horn.

The private game reserve Sabi Sands adjacent to the Kruger National Park had poisoned the horns of its rhinos. The poisoning of these horns is advertised on a large scale. This did not deter poachers and the rhinos with poisoned horn were also hit. Probably the poacher, even when aware of the poisoning of the horn, will poach the rhino and sell the horn for a large sum of money to a middleman for a lot of money. The poacher may not mention that some horns may be poisoned.
The rhino trade consists of hardened criminals who slaughter rhinos, the poachers / traders and importers will not regret that they might injure someone a thousand miles away. The intermediary does not know in some cases that the horn is poisoned. In the wild, horns are damaged and stained by soil and vegetation, dye on a horn will therefore fade quickly until it has completely disappeared.

If poachers are deterred by horn poisoning, this is likely to lead to an increase in poaching in other areas where the horn is not poisoned. Just like with the horns, it is impossible to poison the horns of all rhinos in Africa. There are around 25,000 rhinos to protect in the continent, and there simply isn't enough money and time to infuse all the horns with chemicals. In order to continue to apply the technique correctly, the rhinos should undergo a new treatment every four years. The rhino's horn grows 4 - 7 cm a year. Not only is this a very expensive technique, it is also risky for the rhino. The rhino must be anesthetized each time to infuse the horn.

Consumers are put off by poisoned horn.
The exact effect of poison on the consumer is unknown, so there is little evidence for consequential damage. It seems to have no influence on consumer behavior, since the technology relies on publicity and there has been little in Vietnam and China. The deterrence could also have the opposite effect. If the consumer takes a poisoned horn and nothing happens to him, then they may believe that they are strong and that the rhino horn is so strong that it has already eliminated the poison. This will increase the belief in the healing properties. Another problem is that nowadays the rhino horn is no longer only used for consumption. Given the preciousness of the rhino horn, it is nowadays often used as a status symbol. And it won't matter if it's poisoned or not.
How well does the infusion work.

There is fear that poisoning of some horns further increases the price of horns without poison. Consumers are very rich and buy their horns through trusted networks. They may be willing to pay a higher premium for horns that are not poisoned. In July 2014, an article was written by natural scientists and veterinary experts Sam Ferreira and Danie Pienaar from SANParks Scientific Services; Dr. Markus Hofmeyer of SANParks Veterinary Wildlife Services; and Dr. Dave Cooper from Ezemvelo Wildlife Services. The conclusion of this article was "conservationists should not use the infusion technique in the fight against rhino poaching". Research has shown that the toxin does not penetrate due to the high fiber density of the horn. The toxins were only seen in the drill holes and in no other part of the horn. This means that the poisoning is only in small places and is therefore not effective. Opponents of the verdict of this article rely on the fact that despite the fact that it may not be effective, it may be a deterrent. It is understandable that game park or rhino owners are willing to try anything to protect rhinos. Relying on a technique that does not work entirely and where you depend on a bluffing factor is not a good choice. This allows the money to be spent on prevention measures that have the most effect.