South African Researchers Explore Nuclear Technology to Combat Rhino Poaching

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The project aims to use radiation detectors at borders to catch poachers. Led by the University of the Witwatersrand, the initiative hopes to protect other species like elephants and pangolins. Critics question its effectiveness, but proponents emphasize minimal impact on animals.

Researchers in South Africa have conducted a project injecting radioactive material into the horns of 20 rhinos to combat poaching. The initiative aims to utilize existing radiation detectors at national borders to identify and apprehend poachers and traffickers in possession of these horns.

The process involves tranquilizing the animals, drilling a hole into their horns, and carefully inserting nuclear material. Led by the University of the Witwatersrand's Radiation and Health Physics Unit, the research hopes to expand to protect other vulnerable species like elephants and pangolins from poaching.

Prof. James Larkin, heading the project, emphasized leveraging global radiation monitoring networks designed for nuclear security to enhance wildlife protection efforts. The method, while receiving industry support, faces ethical scrutiny and skepticism regarding its effectiveness from critics like Pelham Jones, who questions its ability to deter sophisticated poaching tactics.

Prof. Nithaya Chetty assured that the radioactivity dosage is minimal and extensively tested for its impact on the animals.