The Rhisotope Project – What is on the Line

There is a silent war being fought and the good guys are losing. To put this into base terms, we are losing just under a thousand animals a year. On this current trajectory, South Africa’s rhino will be nearing extinction in nine years. How then can we not do everything in our power to prevent this from happening? South Africa is home to 90% of the world population of rhino. WE have taken a stand and said, no more!

The poaching scourge took reserves, national parks and private rhino owners by surprise, for both its swiftness and brutality. The approach was reactive as opposed proactive with operations focussed on the “on the ground” where many good men and women have lost their lives trying to protect these animals. In the last few years tech has been added to the fight but science could be the game changer.

Leader in Rhino research and data

Coupled with the tools mentioned above, our aim is to be the largest single reference point for rhino research and data, the “Rhino Almanac” for want of a better term. Surprisingly, there is little known scientific data that exists on this iconic species.  It is one of our goals for The Rhisotope Project to have the most comprehensive research data in the world.

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Structure of The Rhisotope Project

The project has a four-pillar structure:

Demand reduction and horn devaluation

By using our research data and findings on the placements of radioisotopes, our aim is to provide an additional layer of protection for rhino from poachers on the ground.

Instead of working from the ground up we plan to use a top down approach. Targeting global syndicates and buyers of horn for medicinal purposes or gifts of favour. This will then filter down as the risk perception would be deemed too high a price. Traffickers don’t just move one illicit substance as a time they are shipped out in 40ft containers. Having irradiated in that container puts the whole shipment at risk, moving them from traffickers to terrorists.

Education

It cannot be stressed enough that education, especially to school goers are made aware of the problem, they are the future generations of rhino warriors and advocates.

We have an established education program that has been incorporated into The Rhisotope Project. Our legacy to our future generation will be one of immense failure if we allow our wildlife, our heritage to become extinct which is why we are committed to preserving a future for all rhinos. We recognise one of the greatest super powers to save Africa’s rhinos is education because we know the children who grow up wanting to save rhinos will become the adults who take action. The “Rhino Education project” has been designed to help teachers and extra-curricular organisations bring rhino conservation into the classroom as well as provide parents and primary carers with fun and engaging resources to encourage passive learning without geographical restrictions.

Community Social Upliftment and investment

It is no secret the poaching is a poverty driven crime. Poachers come from the poorest of the poor R10 000 to kill an animal seems like a king’s ransom and worth the risk, for that demographic it is more money than they have seen in their lifetime. COVID has added to that as the shut down of the tourism industry has had dire and far reaching consequences. Our aim is to uplift and make a meaningful contribution to these communities as they are the first line of defence and provide credible intel. Animals saving people and people saving animals by introducing sustainable projects that directly affect and benefits of surrounding reserves

Aquaponics and nutrification.
Currently, we have invested R750 000 for two sites in the Eastern Cape.
The first will provide 200 school children and their families with a meal every day.
The second site being….

  • Access to Primary Health Care
  • distribution points for chronic medication
  • Access to primary health care

We are working together with the Department of Health in certain regions of the Eastern Cape with an aim of national service sites in different provinces:

  • Limpopo
  • Mmpumalanga
  • KZN

Research

As stated previously, research is key. There is little known about the physical attributes of a rhino. Even the most basic research is unavailable e.g. Blood glucose levels. We are working with universities around the world collaborating regarding research and modelling. WITS University, Colorado State University (USA), Ohio State University (USA).

Care For Wild is our research partner in this. It is the world’s biggest rhino orphanage, they have rhino ranging from a few weeks to 10 years all victims of poaching.

A brief background

South Africa is home to 90% of the world’s rhino population. From 2010 to 2019 over 9600 rhinos were killed in poaching attacks. Many initiatives have been launched over the years to protect these animals:

  • Anti-poaching units
  • Armed counter poaching units (heavily armed and highly trained counter insurgency specialists)
  • Dehorning (a process of removing the horn from live rhino) making them an unattractive target
  • Applications of poisoned fluids into the horn
  • Varying technological initiatives

 

Even with all the preventative methods listed above, rhino are dying daily at the hands of poachers. Rhino protection requires action on many fronts, unfortunately even with all these protective methods rhinos are still dying. Not surprising if you consider rhino horn sold for $50 000 a kg (an average horn weighs about 3kg) on the black market. The risks for poaching gangs, kingpins and traffickers are well worth the reward – rhino horn is one of the most valuable substances on earth.

Something has to be done now! At the current rate of loss, wild rhino will be extinct in less than 8 to 10 years. We as a group have the skills and knowledge to attack the problem from a scientific angle as well as the burning desire to protect a species whose only crime was being born with horns, hence “The Rhisotope Project” was created.

The Team

What Rhino Conservation Means Today

The greatest threat facing African rhinos is poaching for the illegal trade in their horns, which has soared in recent years. South Africa’s poaching statistics have increased by 9000% since 2007.

Powdered horn is used in traditional Asian medicine as a supposed cure for a range of illnesses – from hangovers to fevers and even cancer.But the current surge has been primarily driven by demand for horn in Vietnam. As well as its use in medicine, rhino horn is bought and consumed purely as a symbol of wealth.

 

Poaching gangs use increasingly sophisticated methods, including helicopters and night vision equipment to track rhinos, and veterinary drugs to knock them out. This means countries and conservationists need to match this level of technology to be able to tackle the problem, alongside working to reduce demand.