Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Kenya implanting microchips in every rhino to fight poaching

By Faith Karimi, CNN
October 21, 2013 -- Updated 0824 GMT (1624 HKT)
Kenya hopes that implanting microchips in every rhino nationwide will put an end to poaching.
Kenya hopes that implanting microchips in every rhino nationwide will put an end to poaching.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • African nations seek ways to halt rapid poaching of rhino horns
  • Poachers are getting more high-tech and sophisticated as demand grows for the horns
  • Kenya is putting two microchips in each rhino -- one in the horn
  • South African officials are dyeing rhino horns pink to discourage purchases

(CNN) -- In a bid to end rampant poaching, Kenya is implanting microchips in every rhino nationwide, an extensive process that will include sedating hundreds of animals.

Decimated by illegal killings, the endangered rhino is increasingly under attack by poachers using high-tech, sophisticated technology.

The microchips will allow wildlife officials to track the animals and trace poached horns.

"It's a costly and time-consuming process to get the chips on the rhinos," said Robert Magori, the World Wildlife Fund communications director for eastern and southern Africa. "The rhinos have to be tracked, identified, sedated, fitted with two chips each (on the horn and on the animal), revived and finally released."

Kenya has 631 black rhinos and a total population of 1,030 rhinos, he said.

The animals are part of the big five that draw tourists, a major source of revenue for the east African nation. The other four are the lion, elephant, leopard and buffalo.

More money, more problems

Poaching of the rhino horn is a lucrative industry, with much of the loot sold to the affluent in Asia, particularly China and Vietnam. In those countries, some believe the horns can cure a series of ills, including cancer and hangovers, and can boost virility.

A kilogram fetches about $20,000, according to a report by Moses Montesh, a criminology professor at the University of South Africa. A single horn weighs about 10 kilograms (22 pounds).

In Kenya, each rhino will get two microchips -- one in the horn and another one in an unidentified part of the animal.

The microchip is less than 2 inches long and can barely be traced by poachers, Magori said. The fitting process is expected to take up to four months.

"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," WWF Kenya said in a statement.

Struggling to keep up

Organized crime syndicates are using military-grade helicopters, night-vision equipment and guns fitted with silencers, taking rhino poaching to a whole new level and leaving conservationists struggling to keep up.

Nations such as South Africa and Kenya have invested in unmanned drones, sniffer dogs and increased security, but have failed to halt the rising tide of rhino slaughter.

In addition to the microchips, the organization will use forensic DNA technology to identify the animals.

"This will serve to strengthen rhino monitoring, protect the animals on site and also support anti-trafficking mechanisms nationally and regionally," WWF Kenya said.

Evidence of poaching

Once the systems are set up, every rhino nationwide will be traceable, providing investigators with evidence in cases of poaching and making it easier to prosecute suspects.

Rhino poaching soared by 43% between 2011 and 2012, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a worldwide network.

Last year alone, about 745 rhinos were poached throughout Africa -- the highest number in two decades. Of those, a record 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone.

In South Africa, officials are dyeing rhino horns pink and tingeing them with nonlethal chemicals to discourage consumers from buying them.

CNN's Oliver Joy contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 2332 GMT (0732 HKT)
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 0613 GMT (1413 HKT)
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0154 GMT (0954 HKT)
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT