Rhino horn can count itself as one of the three most expensive materials in the world, along with gold and platinum, so it comes as no surprise to hear that in South Africa, it RRP’s for around $65 per gram.
That means that rhino poaching is on the rise, and this year alone, a massive 158 white rhinos have been poached – and that stat only takes us up to March 15th. When you compare that with 2010 and see that 333 were poached during the entire 12 months, it is clear that the epidemic is only growing.
That is why the Rhino Rescue Project have spent the last four years tirelessly working to devalue the horns, with co-founder Lorina Hern hoping that by infusing the horns with poison and dye, that can be achieved.
The poison doesn’t hurt the rhino, but given the growth rate of their horns, does need to be replaced every four years, and would make any humans who tried to consume the horn seriously ill.
At a minimum it would start with diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, all the way up to nervous symptoms, which could be permanent. Some ectoparasiticides also precipitate the development of cancers later on in life.
They also put Disperse Red 9 into the horns, which is the same thing that banks put in money to deter robbers, and given a rhino horn consists entirely of keratin, it can be infused with the dye easily and to good effect, without being detected from the outside.
To get the dye into the rhino horn, they are given opioid etorphine, which is routinely used to immobilise white rhinos should need be, and despite one white rhino, Spencer, not surviving the treatment in 2012 due to an underlying health condition, it is thought that infusing the horn with dye or poison could be the answer to stopping poaching, or at the very least slowing the epidemic.