Park vets have implanted tiny GPS (Global Positioning Systems) into the horns of five rhinos in South Africa’s Mafikeng Game Reserve to help protect these endangered animals from poachers.
The GPS chips were fitted into the rhinos’ horns by drilling a small hole in the inert or dead part of the horn (BBC).
The devices allow park officials to monitor the rhinos’ every movement, and can issue alarm signals if something out of the ordinary occurs.
“It’s basically a satellite system which connects with the cell phone system and we can monitor the animals on whatever time delay we want,” Rusty Hustler, head of security for North West Parks Board, told BBC News.
Alarms can be programmed for excessive movement, so that park rangers will know if a rhino is being chased, as well as for excessive sleep, so that rangers will know whether the animal has been unconscious for more than six hours.
The chip can also inform trackers if an animal has wandered outside the confines of the preserve, putting it in extreme danger from poachers. Even if officials can’t catch the poachers in the act, the tracking devices could help them recover the animals before they are killed.
Rhino horn is a highly sought-after ingredient in ancient Chinese medicines, and in September, supermodel Elle Macpherson admitted to eating powdered rhinoceros horn as a “beauty treatment”.
South African officials have seen more than 200 rhinos slaughtered since the first of the year.
Image Credit: Flickr - Mister-E