Wildlife vet Alex Lewis injects a mixture of dye and poison into the horn of this drugged rhino on Inverdoorn Game Reserve near Ceres. Picture: Matthew Jordaan
The poison will not kill, but is designed to make anyone who consumes the ground-up horn feel sick. Most poached horn is smuggled into Asia where it fetches sky-high prices in the traditional medicine trade, although it has no proven medicinal qualities.
The horns were also injected with a bright-red dye that effectively defaced their interior, making them unusable as dagger handles or other ornamentation. Rhino horn has been used, particularly in Yemen, for dagger handles. The dye and poison combination was developed by Denel and has been designed to bind with keratin, the substance horn, hair and nails are made of.
The third part of the anti-poaching cocktail was barium, injected into smaller holes, which will show up on X-rays if the horns are smuggled through airport security.
Inverdoorn owner Damian Vergnaud, who was present throughout the operations that began before dawn yesterday, said yesterday: “I wanted to destroy the market value of the horns, and I hope other game reserve owners will follow what we’ve done. That way we can destroy rhino horn as a product. I think it will work if many people do it. I want everyone to know that we have done this to the horns.”