Friday, February 10, 2012

From the Department of Unintended Consequences: One Dead Rhino

It looked so good on paper: put poison in a rare rhinoceros, to discourage poachers.

Just one problem: now the rhino is dead. It wasn't the poison, though.


"Bungled conservation effort kills South African rhino"
Reuters (February 9, 2012)

"A group of animal conservationists in South Africa accidentally killed a rhinoceros they were attempting to make safe from poachers in a botched public relations event.

"Spencer the rhino went into convulsions and died after he was shot with a tranquilizer dart in front of a crush of TV cameras and photographers who had been invited to document an operation to insert a poison capsule into his horn....

"...'The rhino had an unfortunate reaction to the anesthesia,' Rhino Rescue Project spokeswoman Lorinda Hern said. 'Every time you dart a rhino, you take a risk that the rhino might not wake up and unfortunately today was one of those days.'

"Conservation groups insert poison capsules into the horns of rhinos, which release poison into the horn when it is removed from the animal and are meant to render the horn value-less for hunters seeking to sell it on for use in traditional medicine...."

Maybe it makes sense to spike a rare rhino's horn. Maybe:
  • The odds of killing the rhino are fairly low
  • Most poachers will
    • Know about the poison pill
    • Care about selling poisoned rhino horn
  • Rhino horn buyers will
    • Know about the poison pill
    • Care about buying poisoned rhino horn
That's a lot of 'maybes.'

In the Lemming's opinion, folks running the Rhino Rescue Project are putting a lot of faith in the humanitarian impulses of poachers, and the ethical standards of drug smugglers dealers in illegal animal parts.

Living in the Real World

In an ideal world, people wouldn't put rat poo in peanut butter, or sell toxic toys. But this isn't an ideal world:So what's the big deal about rhinoceros horn? Quite a few folks seem convinced that the stuff cures just about everything:Sort of like snake oil: except that a (genuinely) endangered species might go extinct.

The Lemming hopes that enough folks in Asia will take another look at their equivalent of high-octane patent medicines: and decide to stop contributing to the extinction of an odd sort of critter.

Or - here's an idea - maybe someone in South Africa will come up with a marketable substitute for rhino horn. The country raises beef, poultry, and sheep - apparently for local consumption. Maybe byproducts that aren't getting used now, like bone, could be turned into an exportable commodity.

Or maybe the Lemming's too optimistic, or pessimistic, about marketing and gullibility. And that's another topic.

Related (?) posts:


Brigid said...

I wonder what rhino meat tastes like. There could be money in rhino ranches.

Hey, it saved to buffalo here in the USA.

Brian Gill said...


Good question, good point. *Helped* save the buffalo, anyway. ;)

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