Conservationists Have Been Dyeing Rhino Horns Pink To Ward Off Poachers… And It’s Working!

Who knew pink had such power against heartless poachers? The activists behind the Rhino Rescue Project did, and they put that thought into action by using a pink dye to render useless the tusks of rhinos at the Sabi Sand South African game reserve.

At present, fewer than 2% of more than 100 rhinos that have been injected with the mixture since 2011 have been poached. Because of its success, the method is now being implemented at other wildlife refugees.

Credit: TakePart

The photo above has been digitally altered to convey the success of the program, but in real life, the dye is actually invisible to the naked eye because it’s injected inside the horn.

The reason why this method is so effective is because the dye is completely harmless to rhinos. But if humans handle it, they are likely to become sick, as well as destroy its potential medicinal use. This is because a chemicals used for killing parasites at the game reserves is added to the pink dye; it irritates humans without bothering the giant land animal.

Credit: Rhino Rescue Project
Credit: Rhino Rescue Project
Credit: Rhino Rescue Project

The dye also shows up on airport scanners – even if the horn has been ground into a powder. This makes it very easy for poachers to be recognized on the spot.

The photo below is from the Rhino Rescue Project’s Facebook page. It shows an actual rhino after the process was completed. Bandages cover injection holes while the horn recovers.

Credit: Rhino Rescue Project
Credit: Rhino Rescue Project

Dissimilar from elephant teeth or tusks, rhino horns are not ivory. They’re keratin, pretty much the same as human fingernails. The tubular structure of a rhino’s horn allows the dye to be injected under high pressure, where it will spread and stay inside for a full growing cycle – which is about three or four years. After that time period, it will be treated again.

What are your thoughts? Share in the comments section below and raise awareness about poaching by sharing this article.

Update (07/02/2015): True Activist notes that the Rhino Rescue Project’s methods are very controversial and have sparked heated debate. In response, the team has delved into the accuracy behind many of the claims shared in this article and reports the following:
  • As the Rhino Rescue Project does its work on behalf of wildlife parks and game reserves seeking to protect their rhinos from poachers, its overall intent is not to ‘end’ poaching, but to sow doubt in the minds of poachers and horn buyers, thus reducing the amount of rhinos hunted illegally.
  • Not all organizations are in support of the Rhino Rescue Project’s methods, such as The South African National Park Service. Government organizations such as this doubt the horn-poisoning method and its effectiveness.
  • Such concerns may be valid, as a source presently living in South Africa reports that poachers presently grind up horns into a powder and mix it with viagra to bypass airport security. If this is true, however, it would still be unsafe for humans to handle as ectoparasiticides would be present from the pink dye mixture injected into it.
  • In summary, though this method is very controversial and certain reserves have since stopped injecting rhino horns with the pink dye, this article is relevant to the global community as it promotes an idea – even if it is not foolproof – of how we, collectively, may put an end to poaching and prevent rhinos from becoming extinct.

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