Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Scientists are spiking rhino horns with radioactive poison to thwart poachers

Published Jun 29th, 2024 10:33AM EDT
Image: byrdyak / Adobe

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

Scientists in South Africa are going to startling lengths to dissuade poachers from hunting rhinos by implanting radioactive isotopes in their horns. The scientists accomplish this by implanting two tiny chips into the horn that are just strong enough to set off detectors but not strong enough to cause any harm to the animal’s health.

The scientists are taking this step because three species of rhino remain critically endangered, and while white rhinos in Africa have made a solid recovery due to conservation efforts, poachers killed roughly 499 rhinos in 2023—an 11 percent increase from 2022. Conservationists want to get ahead of the growing numbers before they can increase more.

Previous efforts to conserve rhinos have resorted to removing the rhino horns intentionally. But that requires doing so with a chainsaw—which some have reportedly criticized. With this new method, though, the scientists hope that the radioactive rhino horns will help deter things even more without having to resort to intentionally defacing the rhinos.

African white rhino, National park of KenyaImage source: byrdyak / Adobe

Despite having no scientific evidence to back up the claims, rhino horns have become a popular target for poachers due to their demand for use in traditional medicine, especially in Asia. The horns can reportedly be worth more in weight than cocaine or gold. This insane worth has pushed poachers to increase their hunting of the creatures.

Hopefully, this new method will work out as intended. Of course, there’s no way for the poachers to detect radioactive rhino horns before killing the rhinos. As such, this method will really rely on the finding of radiation in the horns, deterring poachers from trying their hand at killing others. Only time will tell just how well it works, though. For now, it’s certainly an interesting path to follow.

Rhinos aren’t the only endangered animals that suffer, though. Whale meat has also increased in popularity in places like Japan, meaning endangered whales are also under the knife right now. Hopefully, we can find some additional ways to deter people away from killing those endangered animals, too.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.