Kenya to trace its rhino using microchip technology

22nd Oct 2013

Rhino give multitudes of wildlife-loving holidaymakers on safari-led specialist tours to Kenya hours of enjoyment every year.

That's why conservationists are redoubling their efforts with a new weapon against increasingly sophisticated poachers - making every rhino traceable for the first time.

The magnificent beasts are great favourites among visitors on Kenyan group tours.

Ol Pejeta and Lewa Wildlife conservancies, both in Laikipia, and Lake Nakuru National Park in Rift Valley are among the best places to see them.

Conservationists hope tourists on wildlife trips can continue to enjoy them by implanting microchips into the rare horns of the remaining 1,000 rhinos in the country.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is using the chips besides the DNA records to monitor the falling rhino population and their valuable horns.

The technology, donated by charity World Wildlife Fund (WWF), is aimed at protecting the rhino in addition to collating evidence to use against poachers in court.

Robert Magori, Kenya's spokesman for the WWF, told NBC News: "This is the first time we have used technology or done anything like this to try to preserve the rhino population."

Poachers are themselves using technology - such as night-vision goggles and state-of-the-art long-range rifles - to kill animals in some of Kenya's safest reserves, Magori warned.

KWS said the 1,000 microchips and five scanners will be "instrumental" in strengthening active rhino monitoring in addition to stockpiling audits of rhino horn.

The microchips and five scanners cost about £10,000, but the price of installing the technology is expected to reach considerably more.

Two microchips will be inserted into rhino - one in its horn, the other in its body - to make sure tracking still functions if the horn is detached.

KWS thinks the measures, together with forensic DNA technology, will guarantee 100% traceability of every rhino horn and live animal in Kenya.


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