June 20, 2021

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Animal welfare in South Africa: Rhinos are radioactively polluted

Every year, the number of rhinos worldwide is declining. Hundreds of animals are brutally slaughtered every year for this, mainly because of their horns. Animal rights activists in South Africa are now armed – with an extraordinary means.

Animal rights activists in South Africa are carrying weapons. In the fight against chronic rhino poaching, they now rely on slightly radioactive materials. Experts from many countries are working together on the International “Project Resort”.

They like to inject a little radioactive material into the horns of animals to detect and prevent traffickers. As soon as the horns go through customs at an airport or a port, the measuring devices will sound an alarm. Researchers believe there will be a sharp decline in trafficking. Rhinoceros bulls are trendy “Igor” and “Denver”.

Tracking smugglers

At a wildlife farm in the Eastern Cape, James Larkin of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg first injected the first amino acid into the horns of the talkers in mid-May. It contained special, non-radioactive isotopes (types of atoms) of carbon and nitrogen. Researchers first want to analyze how the amino acid is distributed. Then, slightly radioactive isotopes should be used, which can be easily detected from the outside with measuring devices.

“This is a very unusual approach: we are trying to reduce the value of the horn, while at the same time making the smuggling more difficult,” says the head of the Department of Radiation and Health Medicine at the German Press Institute University. It takes up only a small amount of amino acid the size of a ball point pen tip inserted into a horn. “The dose is small enough to not harm the animal’s organism – now we want to test whether the horn is in the horn first,” Larkin explains. In addition, the two rhinos in the test will be explored for risks and health issues over the next few months.

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September 22 is World Rhinoceros Day

“We’d like to present a viable idea by September – probably World Rhino Day,” says Larkin. “I remember it was September 22 – my birthday,” the scientist laughs. If the innovative concept proves viable, it will be offered to public and private rhino owners on the continent.

However, the project did not meet with spontaneous enthusiasm from all animal rights activists. The French environmental group Robin des Boyce sees this primarily as an attempt by its most important supporter, the Russian nuclear authority Rosadom, to expand its influence in Africa. Scientists from Australia, the United States and Russia are involved in the project, which was started by Larkin.

Health risks are feared

The Pro Wildlife Organization similarly criticizes the project. “There have been attempts and announcements many years ago to eat rhino horn in vain or by color or venom, but they have failed and the hunt has not stopped,” says spokeswoman Daniela Fryer, who also complains: More questionable from a health and nature conservation perspective. “

The number of rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa will drop by a third by 2020, marked by corona restrictions, but nearly 400 pachyderms will be killed because of their horns. South Africa is home to 90 percent of the world’s rhino population. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of rhinos hunted there was estimated at more than 9,600.

It was not until the end of May that two rhinos lost their lives due to horns at Namibian Cub Nature Park – one of the most brutally hunted animals was orphaned after its mother was killed by the horn. Princess Charlene of Monegask, who grew up in South Africa, described the struggle against poaching on a trip to her home country. She also worries that the hunting talkie term is seriously threatening people.

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Trade is a million dollar business

Although trade in rhino horns is banned, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), it is a multi-million dollar business: an estimated $ 230 million (9 189 million) a year in trade by UN experts in the “World Wildlife Crime Report” .

Because in Asia, especially in Vietnam and China, horn is popular in traditional medicine and the price of gold is high. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are still about 20,000 white rhinos and about 5,600 endangered black rhinos.