You may have seen some interesting photos on the Internet lately. They show elephants and rhinos with tusks and horns dyed pink in order to prevent the killing of these beautiful animals for their body parts. Is this for real? Well, the short answer is “sort of.”
The images you are seeing of elephants with pink tusks and rhinos with pink horns are photoshopped and not real. But…there is an organization called Rhino Rescue Project that is taking some pretty drastic action in an attempt to save the rhino from poachers.
Because rhino horn is highly prized in some Asian cultures for its supposed health benefits (not true) and as a symbol of wealth and power, rhino horn is as valuable as gold and rhinos are being killed in record numbers just for their horns.
The Rhino Rescue Project is taking a two-pronged approach to making rhino horn as undesirable to poachers as possible. They are in fact infusing a permanent dye (the same type of dye used to stain stolen bank notes) directly into the horns of living rhinos. This dye makes the horn unusable for ornamental purposes and can also be detected on airport x-ray scanners, even if ground to a fine powder.
Along with the dye, the other step the Rhino Rescue Project is taking is to contaminate the horns of living rhinos with ectoparasiticides (toxins used to kill parasites such as ticks). Ectoparasiticides are safe for the animals, but will cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and convulsions in humans. Because rhino horn is made into medicine and ingested by people, contaminating the horns makes them unusable for this purpose.
At this time, no elephant tusks are being dyed pink, but there is a movement to make that a reality.
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