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Johannesburg - A non-lethal chemical containing pink dye will now make it a health risk to consume rhino horn for medicinal purposes, the Sabi Sand Wildtuin Association said on Wednesday.

The association, a group of private landowners, was trying to curb poaching, its CEO Andrew Parker said in a statement.

“Consumers of the powdered horn in Asia risk becoming seriously ill from ingesting a so-called medicinal product which is now contaminated with a non-lethal chemical package,” Parker said in a statement.

The private game reserve, situated in Mpumalanga, was drilling into the horns of its rhino, and injecting a mixture of pink dye and parasiticides. The dye could be detected by airport scanners worldwide, as well as when the horn was ground into a powder. The treatment had been used in over 100 animals in the past 18 months, Parker said. It was created by veterinary surgeon Charles van Niekerk at the Rhino and Lion reserve at Kromdraai, north-west of Johannesburg.

“The results have proved to be non-harmful to the rhinos, cost-effective, and an immediate and long-lasting solution for private game reserves which are seen as easy targets for poachers,” Parker said.

It contained a mixture of parasiticides generally used to control ticks on animals like horses, cattle, and sheep, and was toxic to humans.

“We are not aiming to kill the consumers, no matter what we think of them. We want to kill the illegal trade which is preying on our herds.”

The reserve was spending R6.5 million on security operations. This was triple what it had allocated in 2008.

Parker said in Asian markets one would pay an estimated R600 000/kg for mature horns, which weighed up to 4.5kg when sawn or hacked off close to the skull. - Sapa