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LastChanceSafaris

Rhino! One problem, numerous solutions?

10 posts in this topic

Was sent this BBC article by one of my clients. It covers old ground once again, but I thought it may stimulate some debate amongst members.

In a nutshell from me....

* Hunting old bulls in Namibia may bring big money to a largely uncorrupted conservation authority, but it still means removing a potential breeder (any record of age related impotence in rhino??). With rhino habitat being increasingly depleted, surely there is space for these old bulls.

* Tackling demand is probably the most effective solution. Social media in Asia is starting to make a dent, but efforts to make use of rhino/ivory/lion bones/shark fin/whale meat socially unacceptable need to be exponentially stepped up. Think fur trade and smoking - isn't it possible to have the same effect?

* Removing, dying, poisoning, faking horns. May work in small reserves (e.g Stanley & Livingstone in Vic Falls), but not in large reserves. The poacher doesn't care...he will find a way to sell the inferior product and/or remove it from the pool of supply.

* Legalise the trade. I am not a fan. I fear it may stimulate the demand in a burgeoning Asian population and economy. Managing it like De Beers does diamonds? Well look at the number of conflict diamonds loose in the market.

 

Another solution in the November Smithsonian Magazine below......?WPM$1DU8.pdf

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* Legalise the trade. I am not a fan. I fear it may stimulate the demand in a burgeoning Asian population and economy. Managing it like De Beers does diamonds? Well look at the number of conflict diamonds loose in the market.

 

We interviewed Gary Ralfe of De Beers for our film. We asked him what De Beers estimated the size of the illegal market was - he said less than 1%. I think there has been exaggeration of the amount of blood diamonds. Imagine if the illegal supply of rhino horn was as high as 10% - Surely thats an improvement worth considering.

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I have also taken a look at your attachment, and the solutions offered.

1. 3D printed horns - flood the market

2. RRP - poison horns

3. Video camera in the horn

 

To be fair - all these ideas do have merit and are worth a try - in fact they are already tried and tested.

1. The 3D horn idea has been rejected - not by those who are in favour of lifting the trade ban, but by those trying to uphold the ban. Their logic is that the Copied horns will simply provide a smoke screen for genuine horn. There are a number of shortfalls - which have been addressed on Save The Rhinos webpage - some of which I agree with, but the reality is that the best chance of DNA copy horn working is if there is also a legal supply of genuine horn as well.

2. The horn dye and poison is nothing new. Its been tried tested, failed and now there are attempts to re-market it. The idea has merit, and does have an application, but its success is questionable. All the rhino in Tembe park and Ndumo park were treated with this product and there aren't many rhino left there. Problems are 1. Poison does not infuse properly into the horn, 2. The horn is invested in such diluted quantities that the poison effect will be so negligible 3. if there is an effect, then it will be attributed to the medicine working. 4. Assuming infusion does work - the lower section go the horn remain uninfused and it grows out. 5. Poachers are unlikely to care if the horn is infused or not. 6. All poisons have half lives, and decay with time. 7. The treatment procedure is lengthy and as a result rhino have to stay under for too long increasing the risk 8. Cutting the horn so is simple, visible and less danger to the rhino.

3. The video camera in the horn - lets face it. This one is ridiculous. Aside from the technical complexity of keeping contact and visual and video streaming the cameras are ineffective at night, or of the lens is dirty or damaged. Also imagine the battery you need to keep this thing transmitting 24 hours a day. My cell phone can't even last a day without a recharge, now imagine wifi, GPS and cellphone or satellite connection running all the time. The people who designed this think that a response team could reach the poachers in time - have no idea how ridiculous this is in a real bush environment. There are cases where the response teams hear the gunshot, and are unable to get to the source in time. Then lastly - if everything works well, - the lens is clean, the battery is charged, the system has connection, its daylight etc and the rhino is looking at the poacher at the time it is shot, How are you going to identify the poacher from the picture if he is 50 meters away? And how much does a poacher care if you have a photo of him or not. This device has clearly not been designed by someone who knows Africa.

 

So - while all these ideas and many many more are available and should be tested; there is no reason why they are exclusive of lifting the trade ban. In fact, as all these options are expensive, should they be of any use - then with a legal trade in place, rhino keepers will be able to decide for themselves what is the most efficient way yo protect their rhinos.

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Coincidently last night I happened to listen to the radio broadcast of this, The Inquiry, How to Save the Rhino that was on the World Service. If you’re in the UK then you can find the program on the BBC website there’s a link at the bottom of the BBC article, I’m not sure you’ll be able to listen if you aren’t in the UK but you can try, the article is basically a shorter edited version of the radio program. Although I was aware that a large amount of the horn sold in Laos and Vietnam is fake and that one possible strategy is to manufacture fake horn and then flood the market, I’d not heard of removing a rhino’s horns and attaching fake ones in their place. I’m sure you can make something that looks exactly like the real thing but I can’t understand how you can attach it to a live rhino’s face in such a way that it doesn’t just get knocked off after a while and I don’t see quite what happens as the real horn regrows. I have though thought for some time that when a trophy hunter shoots a rhino the horn should be cut off and replaced with an exact replica so that the real horn remains in Africa.

 

The idea with ‘rhino cam’ which was devised by a British rhino conservationist is that it should act as a deterrent, his idea is that when a rhino is killed rangers can be on the scene within 10 minutes whereas currently they might not even be aware that a rhino has been poached until they stumble on the carcass days later. The poachers may not be caught in the act but they will have to make a run for it to ensure that they’re not and therefore they may only kill one rhino rather than remain in the park/reserve killing more rhinos. At least this is the argument he puts forward in this BBC report. The point not mentioned in the article that was linked to is that the camera only switches on and starts filming when the rhino is attacked because it is linked to the heart rate monitor that's attached to the rhino so it’s not filming all of the time. I don't imagine that it requires that much battery power in any case I would assume that he must taken battery life into consideration otherwise the whole idea would be a waste of time, the guy who came up with this idea has been working in rhino conservation for 15 years so I would hope that he knows something about the African bush. Whether this will really work or not I don’t know when I first read the news reports about this I thought it sounded slightly crazy, but I think it’s certainly worth trialling anything that makes the poachers job harder has to be a good thing, if it reduces the number of rhinos being killed then that’s a positive step. As far as I can see that is all they are really hoping to achieve they're not suggesting that it will stop poaching altogether.

 

I can see lots of ways that in theory modern technology can be used to make life difficult for poachers but I think that while some of these ideas are great for small reserves I’m not sure really how practical they are in huge parks like Kruger. Another BBC report shows how camera traps can be used for anti-poaching, what’s really clever is the camera can have a magnetic sensor so it only switches on whenever anything metal comes within range, it won’t react to an animal but if a poacher comes by their gun or panga or whatever would switch it on. I know from my own trail camera that I have set up all the time that if I just change over the card once in a while and don’t view the photos on camera the batteries last for a really long time. However how many cameras would you need to have in somewhere as vast as Kruger to have any kind of effect on poaching? But again anything that increases the chances of poachers being caught has to be a good thing. Anti-poaching cameras

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Whether this will really work or not I don’t know when I first read the news reports about this I thought it sounded slightly crazy, but I think it’s certainly worth trialling anything that makes the poachers job harder has to be a good thing, if it reduces the number of rhinos being killed then that’s a positive step. As far as I can see that is all they are really hoping to achieve they're not suggesting that it will stop poaching altogether.

 

But again anything that increases the chances of poachers being caught has to be a good thing. Anti-poaching cameras

 

~ @@inyathi

 

Your comments about the deterrent effect of anti-poaching camera technology are much appreciated.

If I understand you, their value is less as a cure-all and more as potent therapy.

I agree with you that measures which serve as impediments to poaching merit consideration.

As ever, I like the length and insight of your comments.

Tom K.

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When I went to the committee of enquiry event, the opening presentation was a chap who was involved in technical advancements in anti poaching. There is still much that can be done. I think the GPS tracker on the horn to give off an alarm is workable - but its reactive, and not proactive.

 

There is this very expensive military vehicle called the threat stalker. It can see for miles into the bush and pick up poachers and see what they are carrying. I think all these advancements are on the cards whether trade is legalised or not.

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I had suggested 3D printing in another thread and then I come over here and there's a whole article on it!

 

I like the rhino cam too. Now who will pay for all this? I will pay a little. Bill Gates? Warren Buffet? Jeff Bezos? Mark Zuckerbeg? The Mars candy folks? Or how about the Koch bros? They've been putting out feel-good PR ads about themselves and their financial interests.

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I had suggested 3D printing in another thread and then I come over here and there's a whole article on it!

 

I like the rhino cam too. Now who will pay for all this? I will pay a little. Bill Gates? Warren Buffet? Jeff Bezos? Mark Zuckerbeg? The Mars candy folks? Or how about the Koch bros? They've been putting out feel-good PR ads about themselves and their financial interests.

 

~ @@Atravelynn

 

Or how about this alternative?

The immense and all-powerful political organization which is in 24/7 control of a certain huge nation might demonstrate its everlasting and glorious goodwill by picking up the tab for everything.

Given their bottomless resources, such a paltry sum ought to be no more than chump change for them.

It would certainly be a meaningful step towards redressing the balance of those with an insatiable appetite for both illegal elephant ivory and rhino horn.

Dream on, Tom...

Tom K.

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When I went to the committee of enquiry event, the opening presentation was a chap who was involved in technical advancements in anti poaching. There is still much that can be done. I think the GPS tracker on the horn to give off an alarm is workable - but its reactive, and not proactive.

 

There is this very expensive military vehicle called the threat stalker. It can see for miles into the bush and pick up poachers and see what they are carrying. I think all these advancements are on the cards whether trade is legalised or not.

 

~ @@Bugs

 

The threat stalker sounds promising.

Has it been built and field-tested, or is it presently in the pre-planning stages?

Such a vehicle might have the additional merit of serving as a deterrent due to its sheer size and sophistication.

Thank you for mentioning it in this thread.

Tom K.

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@@Tom Kellie I spoke to someone the other day who has managed to arrange one on consignment and offered it to Kruger park, but it seems that bureaucratic bumbling has left this very expensive tank-like thing gathering dust. It sounds like a miracle machine - and has many applications, but its cost is prohibitive - and it will suit certain applications and not others. Kruger park will need a quite a few of these machines.

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