For the remaining species of rhinoceros, the fight against poaching has become more hopeful now that a variety of firms have begun to offer their own unique solutions to the problem.
One solution comes from the Seattle firm Pembient, which has developed a way to manufacture synthetic rhino horns using the keratin from specially engineered yeast cells. By adding in a portion of rhino DNA to their synthetic horn, the company hopes to flood the market with a sufficient amount of counterfeit horn that poachers are discouraged from the endeavor.
The Rhino Rescue Project has developed a strategy that destroys the shape of a rhino’s horn, in addition to poisoning the horn for anyone who might ingest it as a means of alternative medicine. After capturing a live rhino, it’s then injected with an anti-parasitic drug and dye causing the horn to become disfigured, without harming the animal.
The process is not entirely risk-free to the rhino, and has led to seven deaths over a five year period. Co-founder Lorinda Hern points out that this is still much better than the alternative, “This is a triumph by any standard, especially when you consider that South Africa is losing four animals to poaching a day.”
Still another method involves implanting rhinos with heart monitors, GPS and horn-mounted video cameras. British non-profit, We Are Protect, has named the product “Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Devices” or RAPID, and is able to monitor an animal’s heart rate and respond in the event that it becomes elevated. An alarm signals park officials while at the same time allowing for access to a live video feed from the animal’s horn camera.
As part of their solution, rhinos that have been fitted with RAPID are also tagged with a turquoise collar on their snout. In order to save costs, the RAPID team also catches and tags rhinos with the collar without installing the RAPID system. The hope is that poachers will be deterred from approaching any rhino with the collar.
With rhino horns selling for $30,000 a pound, poachers will likely look for ways to circumvent these new anti-poaching measures, such as the recent use of cyanide against elephants.