Kenya will tag rhino horns with microchips: suck it, poachers!

The Kenyan Wildlife Services (KWS) is going all 2013 on poachers’ asses by making rhino horn 100% traceable. Now that’s what you call disruptive technology that really makes a difference.

KWS says that it is going to match each rhino horn through DNA so that even poached rhino horn can be recovered and confiscated should the need arise. The increasing sophistication of poachers means that it is increasingly more difficult to protect the rhinos but tracking should protect them on-site and bring justice against the traffickers.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) expects that criminal justice will be able to effectively respond to wildlife crime, and through tracking, closer links between customs, police, wildlife agencies and defense will help to dismantle the networks that support the international wildlife trade.

KWS received 1,000 microchips and five scanners from the WWF this week. This $15,300 investment in equipment will be used to target the rhino populations in Kenya that are under the greatest threat, as well as auditing stockpiling rhino horns.

In the last 20 months, the African continent has seen over 1,000 rhinos killed with Kenya bearing a big brunt of the crisis of poaching. Since the beginning of this year, Kenya itself has lost 21 rhinos and 117 elephants to poachers. Only 37 of the elephants killed were in protected areas, and obviously, that didn’t secure their well being.

According to the WWF:

Although there is no scientific proof of its medical value, rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine, where it is ground into a fine powder or manufactured into tablets as a treatment for a variety of illnesses such as nosebleeds, strokes, convulsions, and fevers.

This demand has created highly profitable and organized international poaching criminal syndicates who deploy advanced technologies ranging from night vision scopes, silenced weapons, darting equipment and helicopters to carry out their mission.

According to Dr Joseph Okori, head of WWF’s African Rhino Programme:

“The African rhino is under serious threat from poachers who have intensified their search of rhino for their horns since 2007, driven by growing market demands in Asia.”

Thanks to successful conservation efforts, Southern Africa is now home to the majority of Africa’s surviving rhinos. 

Even so, South Africa – home to more than 80% of Africa’s rhino populations –  is losing hundreds of rhinos each year.  In this country alone:

122 rhinos were killed in 2009

333 rhinos were killed in 2010

388 rhinos have been killed so far in 2012

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