Africa’s heritage: Infusion process is helping to save the rhino. Picture: Getty Images
The rhino horn infusion pilot project, an initiative to curb rhino poaching, is already bearing results, according to KZN Ezemvelo.
In the two months since the project was launched no rhinos have been poached in the Tembe national park and the Ndumo game reserve on the KwaZulu-Natal far north.
The initiative sees the rhino horns injected with a poisonous chemical that activates when a rhino is poached.
Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo said the project still had its challenges.
“This is not only done by us, Ezemvelo, there are other vets from other organisations. So we have to bring them together and work together. And it’s also very costly because for each rhino it costs R8000 to infuse,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal has lost 75 rhinos to poaching since the beginning of the year. Last week a poacher was shot in a foiled poaching as security has been increased at game reserves.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the use of rhino horn has been identified as a symbol of status among wealthy urban Vietnamese, which is a major driver of the rhino poaching crisis.
Findings from consumer researchconcluded this year in Vietnam concluded that the emergence of a middle class with disposable incomes was pressuring African rhino populations.
This research surveyed 720 people in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It found that the buyers of rhino horn primarily consider it a status symbol, often used as a gift to family, business colleagues or people in positions of authority. They also associate it with a feeling of “peace of mind”.
“Rhino horn consumers are wealthy and powerful and as such are seen as influential people within Vietnamese society,” said Jo Shaw, WWF-SA’s Rhino Co-ordinator.
She added that while their reasons for purchasing and consuming rhino horn were linked to an underlying belief in its medicinal properties, there was a current trend of use to enhance social standing.
“Research revealed that typical users of rhino horn are successful, well educated men over the age of 40 who live in Vietnam’s main urban centres. They value their luxury lifestyle, which is often based around meeting peer group pressures and tend to view animals as commodities to serve functional and income-generating purposes rather than feeling an emotional connection,” Shaw added.