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Endangered eastern black rhino calf born in England zoo
According to Chester Zoo, poaching has left fewer than 1000 eastern black rhinos on the planet.
USA TODAY, Storyful
The claim: Conservationists are dyeing rhino horns and elephant tusks bright pink to prevent ivory poaching
“This is one of the best things I have seen in a while. They use the same pink dye that they use on bank notes. This makes the Ivory unsellable and it can’t be consumed. (the animals are not harmed and it is saving their lives),” reads the January post, which was a share of a post that originally appeared in 2016.
Some conservationists have used procedures that poison rhino horns to devalue the horn and deter ivory poaching. The process does include a dye, but it does not alter the long-term surface appearance of rhino horns.
“To devalue the horn, it is treated by infusing it with a compound made up of ectoparasiticides and indelible dye that contaminates the horn and renders it useless for ornamental or medicinal use,” the Rhino Rescue Project says in describing the process on its website.
Researchers found the procedure gave rhino horns a neon pink tint when they passed through airport X-ray machines, making it difficult for poachers to transport affected ivory.
The news agency AFP explains the process in a 2013 video.
USA TODAY reached out to an account that recently shared this meme for comment.
A controversial practice among conservationists
The process and its effectiveness in deterring poaching have been debated by conservationists.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare has written that poisoning ivory could increase black-market prices and heighten poaching threats. The sedatives and procedures come with significant costs for conservationists and possible health risks for the animals. There are also ethical complications that come with poisoning ivory that humans may consume, even if they do so illegally.
Even if the procedure is successful, the animal welfare fund stressed that horns and tusks grow quickly, making it “logistically impossible.”
The Rhino Rescue Project called misinformation about tusk dyeing that makes rhino horns pink “nothing more than a frivolous Facebook or Twitter rumour.”
On its FAQ page, the project explained that conservationists don’t stain rhino horns pink because the dye would not last long enough to be effective and because the visible discoloration would make other wild animals vulnerable to predators.
Images are doctored
“This photo has been digitally altered and is not an actual photo of a rhino at Sabi Sand. (Photo: Heinrich van den Berg/Getty),” the original image caption read.
Since then, the altered image has circulated on social media with no disclosure that it was doctored.
Our rating: Altered
A viral meme depicting a rhino with a bright pink horn and an elephant with bright pink tusks is not authentic. Conservationists have used a procedure that uses poison and dye to render rhino horns worthless, but that procedure does not make rhino horns or elephant tusks appear bright pink. We rate this meme ALTERED because it uses doctored images to misrepresent the procedure.
Our fact-check source:
- World Wildlife Fund, accessed March. 2, “Adopt an Elephant”
- World Wildlife Fund, accessed March. 2, “Black Rhino“
- Rhino Rescue Project, accessed March. 2, “How It Works”
- Scientific American, May 9, 2013, “Dye and Poison Stop Rhino Poachers“
- YouTube, AFP News Agency, Nov. 12, 2013, “Poisoning rhino horns to prevent poaching“
- Rhino Resource Center, 2014, “Chemical horn infusions: a poaching deterrent or an unnecessary deception?“
- International Fund for Animal Welfare, June 2, 2017, “why some creative poaching solutions fail“
- Rhino Rescue Project, accessed March. 2, “FAQ“
- YouTube, AlexTriceratops123, Aug. 26, 2011, “Elephant Sound Effects“
- Getty Images, accessed March 2, “White Rhinoceros – Photos“
- Save the Rhino, Aug. 18, 2015, “Dyeing rhino horn and elephant ivory“
- Wayback Machine, Take Part, April 10, 2013, “Pink Poison, the Surprising New Trend That’s Saving Rhinos“
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