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African rhinos get GPS protection

South Africa: A group of African rhinos have got a tool to help protect them against poachers — GPS locating devices embedded directly into their horns. Five such animals in South Africa’s Mafikeng Game Reserve were recently equipped with the small tracking chips which will help park officials monitor their movements and alert them to any possible threats from illegal hunting.

Conservationists hope that by upgrading the animals with technology of the 21st century, it may help ensure this endangered species will still be around at the end of it. The satellite locating device can be monitored by cell phone, allowing officials to know the rhinos’ whereabouts and to be alerted to any suspicious movements within the park — or a concerning lack of movement.

Lead security officer of the park, Rusty Hustler, explained to the BBC how the GPS chips will help officials protect the animals from threats from poachers when an alarm sounds indicating unusual activity:

“There are a number of alarms that can be programmed: one for excessive movement, so if the rhino starts running, and another that goes off if the rhino sleeps for longer than six hours, which is abnormal.”

A bit of extra protection couldn’t come any sooner for the Africa’s endangered rhino population. In recent years, the animals have been under increasing threat from the onslaught of poachers who can make a small fortune selling their prized horns in the illegal wildlife trade. Some cultures believe that rhino horns have medicinal qualities — though they’re composed primarily of keratin, like fingernails.

Source: treeHugger