Poisoning of the rhino horns Essay

Published: 2019-10-10 05:35:15
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Category: Poaching

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Question: Whether the government intends poisoning the horns of live rhinoceroses in situ as a deterrent to poaching: if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?

If the government intend to poison the rhino horn there is a lot of factors to consider, including legal and toxicological factors. According to the guardian on 4 April 2013 (Smith, 2013) they describe how the rhino horn is infused with the poison. As well as concrete proof of whether some people think it is worth the effort and some people say it is not as effective as one would think. First the rhino is placed under sleep with a tranquilizer, then a hole is drilled in the horn where after the mixture of a pinkish dye and pesticides is injected into the horn. The pesticide is similar to the pesticide used on horses, cattle and sheep. It is also said that it is toxic to humans and will lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea etc. But it is a non-lethal chemical mixture. But as is commonly known that all compounds has a LD 50, which is known as the lethal dose for 50% of the population.

Thus if the compound is ingested as the LD 50 amount then lethality will be possible. Further more it still needs to be effective and stable and at the same time be toxic to humans but not to rhinos. Thus the specific compound, which is known as an ectoparasiticide, must have a relatively high LD 50 for rhinos and a low LD 50 for humans. All the effects of the ectoparasiticide is dosage related. But to animals it is not toxic and is commonly used to treat the ticks infecting certain cattle, sheep etc., as previously mentioned. The horn of the rhino is not directly attached to the rest of the vascular system of the rhinos body and the horn continues to grow such as the nails of humans. Thus if the poison is injected in situ it will be higher up in the horn after a few months of the initial injection.

Thus it wont grow into the rest of the rhino. And will not be necessary to explain the different ADME (administration, distribution, metabolism and excretion) of toxicology because it will never enter the bloodstream when injected into the horn under high pressure. However I have read that it is common for a rhino to file its horn against the bark of trees and then when the dust comes off there is a possibility of inhalation and thus the poison needs to be a toxic with a high LD 50 in rhinos, meaning that they will require a high dose through inhalation before the toxic will be lethal to the rhino, and will thus have a negative effect on the rhino. But the humans ingest a rather small amount of the illegal acquired rhino horn, although the overall effect of the poisoning of rhino horn isnt to kill people, but to deter poaching, the LD 50 of the compound in humans needs to be just higher than the dosage that is usually taken.

The chemical mixture that is infused into the rhino horn also contains the red/pink dye. This is similar to the dye used in the staining of banknotes. It is for the identification of the toxic horn and to detect it when people wants to transport it through the airport services (Carnie, 2013). It is even detected when it is ground to powder. Some people believe that the chemical cocktail does not infuse the high-density fibre of the horn, thus renders the treatment and thus the end-product useless and thus seen as a waste of resources and money that can otherwise be well spent (Save the rhino, 2014). It is however evident that the rhinos, that had received the treatment, where not poached since the highly toxic cocktail was infused into the horn of the rhinos at the Ezemvelo KZN wildlife park, as Mr. Bandile Mkhize said (Dardagan, 2014).

There was about 1004 rhinos poached last year, according to the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) (Oellerman, 2014). But the Rhino Rescue Project did not get good feedback and support from the wildlife trade monitoring network known as Traffic, because Tom Milliken the programmes coordinator said that the poisoning of the rhino horn could be beneficial but only along with the sufficient media covering and public education. And further will thus not be beneficial in the cases where the areas are larger than a few square kilometres. Further there is a lack of resources that the application of the poison into all the horns of the rhinos in a relatively large area is impractical and will require a large capital injection as well as education of staff members in the correct procedure to be implemented. Lastly the dealers of the rhino horns is already so corrupt that even though they realize that they have a toxic horn they will still try and decolour it and still continue to sell it for thousands of dollars (Smith, 2013).

Further more the rhino poaching problem on the consumer side must be tackled through education according to some people (Braun, 2010) . Till conclusion the rhino infusion cocktail is still in the experimental phase and there is records of rhinos being killed in the infusion process, such as the one rhino referred to as Spencer in the rhino and lion Nature Reserve in Kromdraai who couldnt be revived after the tranquiliser dart after the whole infusion process was done. Thus this process has still some risks and can maybe have a more negative effect of the number of rhinos in concert with the poachers effects. The death of the rhino could possibly be attributed to the age and health of the rhino and thus will limit the amount of rhinos who will be susceptible to the positive effect of the poison to the poachers (Bega, 2012).

It is also important to note that the rhino horn has no medicinal benefits, and mainly consists of keratin and hair thus and is clear that it is mainly the same composition than human nails. Thus the deterrent of rhino poaching is not just solely poisoning of the rhino horn, but a combination of stricter laws and judicial measures, poisoning, security as well as education of the public about the measures and the severity of the deterring mechanisms put in place and the problem respectively. Thus by using the poisoning of rhino horn as a deterrent will be efficient only if the government will be able to implement the necessary resources and be able to sustain this method seeing that the rhino horn continue growing and thus the poison will grow along with the horn and will thus need to be infused again after a period of time, depending on the rate of growth of the rhino horn.

Question: Whether the practice is illegal; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so?


According to a Durban-based environmental-based environmental lawyer who states that there are legal and ethical aspects of poisoning the rhino horn (Carnie, 2013). This lawyer states that the use of poison in the rhino horn to deter possible rhino poachers is equivalent to the use of chemical and nuclear weapons in war. But I dont necessarily agree with this statement because in war one stands up for protecting its people and values as is, whereas the poisoning of the rhino horn is a defence mechanism set in place for something that isnt being corrected by the current law systems. In another resource there is stated that the practice is legal, and the compound used in the infusion can be bought over the counter and is a general pesticide (Smith, 2013). According to David Braun poisoning a consumer of the illegal rhino horn will be classified as murder. And the target, which is the sordid wildlife smugglers getting rich from this whole business, isnt being harmed by the poisoning but the innocent users sometimes and the illegal users who dont even know that it is poisoned due to the fact that smugglers can de-colour the dye if they realize that it is poisoned.

Due to the fact that they are all ready so corrupt (Braun, 2010). But then there is another source that describes the more realistic law related problems. There is described that the infusion of the rhino horn with poison by the parties undertaking the action it is considered to be a crime even when the intent was not to harm or kill the consumer (Dagut, 2013). Thus the party which administered the poison will be convicted of murder when the poacher or the consumer as come to harm in South Africa. The only contrasting fact to above mentioned opinion is the fact that if the horn cannot be traced in the market how is it possible to trace the specific parties responsible for the presence of the poison in the horn, without making themselves guilty of poaching and illegal wildlife trading? Still with regards to previous argument poisoning outside of South Africa will not be convicted in South African courts.

Till conclusion the KZN MEC for environmental affairs have been quoted as to saying that the real criminals are those that poach the rhino horn and not the poisoners and thus we need to consequently focus on the poachers. In conclusion the paper states that the government and society recognizes the value of the efforts to deter poachers in killing rhinos for their horn, for the so called medicinal properties, and thus the prosecution of the parties who poison the rhino horn will not be a priority. There is multiple opinions on this aspect of the object, but overall the opinion is trending towards the fact that the rhino horn infusion is illegal. But overall I dont think it is illegal more than the fact that poaching rhinos is much more illegal and is the problem needed to be solved

Question: Whether the law will be amended to enable authorities to poison rhino horn in situ; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?


I think, as all the resources lead towards, that the poisoning of the poisoning rhino horn can be legalized in such a way that the initial target, the poachers, can be focused on. Just as the MEC of the environmental affairs has notes, as mentioned above in question 2. Thus the law can be changed that the poison can be applied without the parties that applied the poison will not be prosecuted at all as is the case currently the case. Disregards of whether it is in South Africa or outside of South Africa. And once again the law has, according to me, totally misconceptualized the overall problem at hand, namely the illegal trade in the trade of the rhino horn. It isnt the parties trying to protect the African treasures, such as the rhinos, it is the poachers, consumers of the illegally acquired rhino horn and then obviously the middle man driving the whole wicked trade in this false believed medicinal commodity mimicked as the rhino horn.

Thus the overall message is that better public education need to be placed in order to firstly educate the public about the REAL facts about the so called medicinal benefits of the rhino horn. And then the rhino horn poisoning first needs to be studied more extensively before applied on greater scale. Till conclusion I can see that if the people wants to keep believing the probable medicinal benefits that the rhino horn has, the only clear option is to legalize the trade in the rhino horn which will regulate the mortality and maybe decrease the mortality of the rhino horn.

This means that, seeing that the rhino horn also continuously grows, such as the human nails, it is clear that people can be educated and trained to safely file the rhino horn till a specific level and acceptable to the rhinos overall well-being. Which can then be sold for a specific price and thus lead to a unique income for Africa which can be used to better our own economy and the well-being of the inhabitants of Africa as a continent. Thus the law can be legalized to enable the parties to poison their rhinos horns, but why fight it when it can be turned into a positive income for Africa?

Bega, S. (2012). Poisoned rhino horn plan goes awry. Kromdraai: Saturday Star. Braun, D. (2010). Poisoning horns is not a solution to the rhino poaching crisis. National Geographic. Carnie, T. (2013). Rhino horn poison extremely toxic. Durban: Independent Newspaper. Dagut, H. (2013). Poisoning rhino horn ethically defendable, but legally questionable? Bizcommunity.com, Daily industry news. Dardagan, C. (2014). Poisoning rhino horns works-expert. Durban: Independent Newspaper. Oellerman, I. (2014). Spoiling a good story. The Witness.

Save the rhino. (2014, 10 10). Retrieved from Poisoning rhino horns: http://www.savetherhino.org/rhino_info/thorny_issues/poisoning_rhino_horns Smith, D. (2013, 04 4). The Gaurdian. Retrieved from South African game reserve poisons rhinos horns to prevent poaching: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/apr/04/rhino-horns-poisoned-poachers-protect

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