The rhino anti-poaching headlines brought sad news last week. An anti-poaching operation at a private nature reserve near Pretoria went horribly wrong. The intended procedure of injecting poison (insecticide and dye) into Spencer the rhino’s horn, resulted in the rhino not waking up again after the procedure and sedation. What should have been an attempt to preserve the rhino resulted in the opposite. The conservationists involved were devastated. On this specific day, invited media, journalists and animal and conservation activists watched the procedure, to spread the word about anti-poaching operations to save South Africa’s fast declining rhino population. According to CBS News, WWF’s wildlife veterinarian experts declared with Spencer’s death that sedation is always a risky process. At this stage, it is thought that Spencer’s death was due to the sedation, or the drugs used in attempt to revive the animal. A post-mortem investigation is underway. Although the procedure of injecting toxins into rhino horns is not harmful to the animal, it can result in negative health effects for the humans involved in the poaching, and horn consumption. But South Africa’s desperate fight against rhino poaching is calling for desperate measures. The toxic pesticide can discourage poachers to take the horn, but if poached, the dye in the horn allows authorities to trace the horn (and poachers). Thus functioning similar to the dying of money for when bank robberies take place.
Spencer’s death was an exception for the reserve. To date, the reserve has successfully treated twenty rhinos. Spencer was a male rhino in his mid-twenties.
Photo credits: some rights reserved by Erlend Aasland via flickr.