The
Rhisotope
Project

using science based solutions to save a species

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The Rhisotope Project

The Rhisotope Project is an initiative between WITS University, Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation (ROSATOM), Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Colorado State University (USA) together with global scientists, Care for Wild (world’s largest rhino orphanage), researchers, South African rhino owners and one of the best rhino veterinary surgeons in the world, Dr William Fowlds. The aim of the project is to investigate and establish whether it is possible to place radioactive isotopes into the horn of a rhino to curb rhino poaching and significantly lower demand reduction in places such as Vietnam and China, two of the biggest consumers of rhino horn.

The purpose of the project is to create a lasting and effective means of significantly lowering the amount of rhino being poached and killed for their horns. These animals need us more than you know. The Rhisotope Project aims to provide science based solutions tool in the toolkit of rhino protection, innovation and the ability to evolve as the landscape changes is key. Traditional anti-poaching methods are still not enough and even though trade in rhino horn is illegal and banned internationally, there are many countries that drive the illicit sale of horn, countries like Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Croatia and North Korea to name a few.

Pioneering research

This pioneering research is headed up by Professor James Larkin who is Director of The Radiation and Health Physics Unit (RHPU) at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is also the Chairman of the university’s NIH mandated Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) and is a past chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN).

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, UK (FRSM), member of the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management, US (INMM), and a founding member of the Southern African Radiation Protection Association (SARPA). Visiting Researcher, King’s College, London.

He is heavily involved in international nuclear security education, and over the past ten years has been to numerous different countries to share his nuclear security knowledge and experiences with national, regional, and international audiences. At Witwatersrand University he teaches various courses in nuclear security, radiation protection, and nuclear facility leadership, and acts as the university’s radiation safety officer.

 

The work

Together, with our partners, we will provide solutions to significantly reduce rhino poaching and demand reduction through the safe application of radioisotopes and radiation research. It is a giant leap forward in the protection of this threatened species. If the appetite for horn lowers so will poaching. The two challenges are not mutually exclusive and are inextricably linked.

These animals need us more than you know. The Rhisotope Project aims to provide science-based solutions tool in the toolkit of rhino protection, innovation and the ability to evolve as the landscape changes is key. Traditional anti-poaching methods are still not enough and even though trade in rhino horn is illegal and banned internationally, there are many countries that drive the illicit sale of horn, countries like Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Croatia and North Korea to name a few. It is a very simple equation – NO BUYING NO DYING.

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