Kenya's hi-tech fight against poaching: Rhinos get microchipped in a bid to halt the illegal trade of their valuable horns

  • The technology, which is worth around £10,000, was gifted to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) by charity WWF
  • A microchip will be embedded into an individual rhino's horn and another into its body to ensure that tracking still works if the horn is removed
  • The charity warned poachers are using night-vision goggles and long-range rifles and managed to kill 24 rhinos in secure locations in Kenya last year

By Sarah Griffiths

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Conservationists are using a new weapon against poachers in Kenya in the shape of 1,000 microchips that they are implanting into rare rhino horns.

In a bid to fight back against increasingly sophisticated hunters, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is using the chips along with the DNA records to track the decreasing rhino population and their valuable horns.

The technology, gifted by charity World Wildlife Fund (WWF), is designed to protect the remaining 1,000 rhinos in the country as well as to collect evidence to use against poachers in court.

A Kenya Wildlife Services vet approaches a wild male black rhino named Sambu after it was tranquilized in Lewa conservancy in August

A Kenya Wildlife Services vet approaches a wild male black rhino named Sambu after it was tranquilized in Lewa conservancy in August. The horn of each rhino is cut and a tracking device is fitted to monitor its movements to help combat poaching

Robert Magori, Kenya’s spokesman for the WWF, said: 'This is the first time we have used technology or done anything like this to try to preserve the rhino population.'

He warned that poachers are using technology to kill animals in some of the country's most secure reserves.

'We are facing an even greater challenge because the poachers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They have night-vision goggles and long-range rifles,' he told NBC News.

 

In a statement, KWS said the 1,000 microchips and five scanners will 'be instrumental in strengthening active rhino monitoring as well as stockpile audits of rhino horn'.

The microchips and five scanners cost around £10,000 but the price of fitting the technology will likely cost significantly more.

A microchip will be embedded into a rhino's horn and another in its body to ensure that tracking still works if the horn is removed.

more than 1,000 rhinos could be poached by 2014

Experts have warned that if the current trend continues, more than 1,000 rhinos could be poached by 2014 and Kenya alone saw 23 of its rhinos killed last year

KWS believes that the systems, combined with forensic DNA technology, will allow for 100 per cent traceability of every rhino horn and live animal within Kenya.

'This will serve to strengthen rhino monitoring, protect the animals on site and also support anti-trafficking mechanisms nationally and regionally,' it said.

Investigators will be able to link cases of poaching to a recovered or confiscated horn and this forms crucial evidence in court contributing towards the prosecution’s ability to push for sentencing of a suspected rhino criminal.

The technology is being used internationally to support criminal justice responses to wildlife crimes and means that every marked rhino in the country is traceable and every rhino horn tracked globally can be matched to the rhino from which it was taken.

KWS said the microchips and five scanners will be used to monitor trade of rhino horns

KWS said the microchips and five scanners will be used to monitor trade of rhino horns. The microchips and five scanners, cost around £10,000 but the price of fitting the technology will likely cost significantly more. Here, KWS rangers fit a tracking device to a tranquilised rhino

It is hoped the technology will expose and provide new insight into the rhino horn trade chain.

Mr Magori said the number of rhinos being poached in Kenya has risen dramatically in recent years and the reason is their valuable horns, that can sell for £40,150 per kilogram, which is more valuable than gold.

While trading of the horns was regulated in the 1990s and poaching figures fell sharply as a result, there is increasing demand for the horns in South East Asia after a Vietnamese politician claimed the ingredient, used in traditional medicine, cured his cancer.

It is not just Kenya that has seen incidences of rhino poaching soar, as other African countries, including South Africa, which is home to some 22,000 rhinos, has noticed the impact.

Experts have warned that if the current trend continues, more than 1,000 rhinos could be poached by 2014 and Kenya alone saw 23 of its rhinos killed last year.

The comments below have not been moderated.

Ignorant people, killing an animal out of superstitious beliefs of medicinal and or sexual ideas! Probably should have kept this technology quiet, now they will figure out a way to remove the chips. And for this to work they will need a rapid response team that can immediately deploy to the location of the deceased animal and hopefully catch and kill the poachers. Make it to hot to make it worth their wild!

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Since when does the Wrestling Federation care about wild life ?! Way yo go Vince McMan. But I do hope it works. If we want to stop illegal poaching it has to start with these wealthy snobs who buy this stuff.

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Good on the World Wrestling Federation

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rhino horns make trendy candle holders and their skin makes hardy coats.

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Although the horns can be traced the trouble is that the rhinos will still be dead and sadly, very often their calves. I know rhinos use their horns but they can survive without. If they don't have horns the poachers are less likely to kill them.

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I hope all poachers die a slow painful death

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Cant they do something to spoil the horn like dye it or taint it with some chemical then it would be worthless

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Poachers are not the main problem, they receive very little for the horn etc it is the people and organizations that trade the horn. There need to to be extreme penalties for those trading in Rhino horn

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What a beautiful picture of these magnificent animals, just read today that ALL rhinos have now disappeared in Mozambique which is dreadfully sad. KILL ALL POACHERS and continually do so and this should put an end to this odious practice. Sadly though the main "man" will escape, but if poachers are slowly eliminated and other potential poachers see what is happening that should be a deterrent.

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poaching/hunting is fun and good sport.

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Stupid poachers

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