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Kenya to Implant Microchips in All Rhino Horns to Curb Poaching

Rhinos in Kenya
The World Wildlife Fund is donating equipment for the planned project to implant microchips in the horn of every rhino in Kenya. Photographer: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Kenya plans to implant microchips in the horn of every rhino in the East African nation to curb a surge in poaching and help law enforcers prosecute the culprits, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The World Wildlife Fund is donating equipment for the project, including more than 1,000 microchips and five scanners at a cost of 1.3 million shillings ($15,294), the Nairobi-based agency said in a statement yesterday on its website.

“This new technology will ensure that every marked rhino in the country is traceable,” it said. “Investigators will be able to link any poached case to a recovered or confiscated horn and this forms crucial evidence in court contributing toward the prosecution’s ability to push for sentencing.”

Poachers killed 34 rhinos in Kenya between the start of this year and August, a 17 percent increase from the whole of 2012 and leaving the country with a population of about 1,025 rhinos, according to government data. The government and conservationists in the country are boosting security to protect the wild rhinos, as well as elephants, with measures such as deploying unmanned drones, using night-vision goggles and training a 121-member anti-poaching unit that includes paramilitary forces.

Rhino poaching has been increasing in Africa over the past few years because of growing black markets in Asia, where the horn is used as an ingredient in traditional medicines, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails and hair, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.

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