The tables are about to be turned on poachers – they’ll soon be the ones being tracked. In a new effort to cut down rhinoceros poaching in Kenya, the World Wildlife Fund has donated microchips for wildlife officials to implant into the horns and bodies of all of the country’s rhinos. The technology will enable better rhino monitoring in the field, and allow officials to trace any horns that are sliced off back to the animal it came from.
The microchip will serve as proof that the horn was acquired by poaching. If a horn has a microchip, officials will easily be able to match it to the one in a maimed animal’s body.
“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 Kenya Wildlife Service wrote in a press release.
There are only about 1,025 rhinos left in Kenya. Poaching is one of the greatest threats to their survival because of the demand for their horns, which are in high demand in burgeoning Asian black markets. Prices for ivory and horn have soared in recent years, exacerbating the problem. Last year, 23 rhinos died from poaching. So far this year, 34 have been killed, including one white rhino that was shot in what was believed to be a secure wildlife refuge, the Nairobi National Park. Smuggled rhino horns are carved into drinking cups and sold for use in traditional medicine.
Officials hope that this new tracking system will not only help deter potential poachers, but also facilitate bringing them to trial for their crimes.