Saving Kenya's Rhinos

Oct 18, 2013 By Anita R
Anita R's picture

Poaching or the illegal killing of wild animals is a big problem in many African nations. It has threatened the future of several animals especially the African Rhinoceros.

Rhino horns are very rare and valuable not just for medicinal purposes, but also as collector's items. This year alone, in Kenya, despite being protected, there has been an unfortunate increase in the death of rhinos being hunted for their horns. it has forced the Government of Kenya to come up with a plan to stamp out this illegal activity.

Their solution – place microchips in the horn of very rhino in the country.

Rhinoceros

You certainly do not want to be in front of an angry rhino for they are notorious for their unprovoked charges. These tropical animals are huge - about 4 to 6 feet in height and weigh between 1 to 4 tons. They are usually found in the forests of Africa and Asia. What they lack in vision, these animals more than make up with an acute sense of smell and hearing which causes them to panic at strange smells and sounds.

A typical rhino can live up to 50 years. They do not have any natural predators and have only one enemy – humans. Humans have been long fascinated by Rhino horns. A well preserved rhino horn can fetch almost $100,000 per kg, making it more valuable than its weight in gold. Depending on their species, rhinos can have one or two horns.

You may think it strange, but the horns of the rhino are similar to the toe nails on your fingers and toes. It is made of keratin and actually grows continuously. Unlike other horned animals, rhino horns do not have a bone core.

The Microchip Project

The merciless killing of rhinos for its horns has prompted countries to try many different strategies. Quite often, these creatures have been tranquilized and their horns extracted to deter killing. However, it has been noticed that the animals continue to be killed far too often by poachers, only to find a rhino whose horns have already been removed. 

Many nations have figured that to deter illegal poaching, trading of illegal horns should be controlled. To make this possible, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has provided Kenya with more than 1000 microchips and five scanners to help officials track Kenya's fragile rhino population. Authorities hope that tracking each rhino will allow authorities to monitor the animals closely. Surveillance of the animals will not only deter poachers from slaughtering rhinos, but also help track and prosecute a suspected rhino criminal.

The easy part in this exercise is the tracking, the tough part is actually implanting every rhino's horn. This exercise is expected to be costly and time consuming, but worth every effort. Here is a video on other rhino conservation and breeding efforts. 

Courtesy: Animal Planet, BBC