Wildlife officials in Kenya are implanting microchips into the horn of every rhinoceros in the country in a bid to keep the dwindling population safe from the ever-increasing presence of poachers.
The $15,000 (1.3 million Kenyan shillings) tracking system, which was donated to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will reportedly give unprecedented rhino tracking ability in Kenya.
The WWF said in a statement that the move will serve to strengthen existing rhino monitoring efforts and offer the endangered creatures more protection, as well as add to national and regional anti-trafficking campaigns.
"With poachers getting more sophisticated in their approach it is vital that conservation efforts embrace the use of more sophisticated technology to counter the killing of wildlife. The deployment of specialized rhino horn tracking systems combined with forensic DNA technology will allow for 100 percent traceability of every rhino horn and live animal within Kenya," the WWF said in Kenya this week.
The tracking system, which employs chips embedded within the horn of the rhino, as well as one more chip elsewhere, will also help establish a trail of evidence that can be used to more effectively bring charges against poachers.
"Poachers are getting more sophisticated in their approach," Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), told the AFP.
"So it is vital that conservation efforts also follow and embrace the use of more sophisticated technology to counter the killing of wildlife."
To implant the chips in the rhinos, wildlife officers will have to track the creatures down and knock them out with a tranquilizer, an effort which will add considerably to the initial cost of the equipment, the AFP reported.
The microchips in the horns of rhinos may deter poachers from trying to smuggle the contraband out of the country.
"[Poachers] will have no idea where the microchips are and so, it could be extremely dangerous for them to go through ports of entry as well as any immigration areas without them being noticed," said Robert Magori a spokesman for WWF-Kenya, who spoke with Voice of America.
"When a rhino is killed and the horn is hacked off and taken away, if this horn is confiscated and the microchip tag can be identified, it can be tracked back to a poached animal and it can actually show and prove that this was a poaching incident," he said.
There are only about 1,000 rhinos left in Kenya. Last year, poachers killed 23 and this year 10 have died from poaching, Voice of America reported.
Rhino horn is valued in parts of Asia, where it is carved into drinking cups and sold as medicine. Practitioners of Western medicine resoundingly agree the substance comprising rhino horn, keratin, has no medicinal value.
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