RhinoProtect was started by Damian Vergnaud after he and his team developed and rolled out a horn treatment for the rhinos at Inverdoorn Game Reserve in the Western Cape province of South Africa.
In 2011, neighbouring game reserves were attacked by poachers, leading to the death of several rhinos and the trauma of those that survived. Realising he needed to take further steps to protect the rhinos at Inverdoorn before he was hit by poachers as well, Damien stepped up security patrols, hired extra staff and invested in night-vision equipment.
Despite all these measures, the poachers tried their luck and Damien decided that even more needed to be done. Bringing together a team of veterinary professionals and reserve staff, they embarked on a mission to find a new solution for protecting the rhinos at Inverdoorn and beyond.
Intensive research and discourse ensued and led to the development of a barium and dye-infused treatment. Injected into the rhinos’ horns, they become coloured, X-ray detectable and unfit for human consumption as a result. The procedure takes a mere 40 minutes and does not affect the rhino’s behaviour or alter the outward appearance of the horn.
The barium in the treatment causes the horn to become more detectable on an airport scanner, while the dye stains the inner core of the horn. The procedure is quick and painless, significantly reducing any stress to the animal and poses no risk to its health. With the threat to the reserve’s rhinos becoming very real, Damien felt that treating the horns was justified.
Inverdoorn’s rhinos are now protected and as an added measure poachers have been warned that the horns are treated with signs posted across the reserve. Extensive press coverage helped spread the word about the RhinoProtect treatment and the newly-formed organisation’s mission, as did the Stand Up! concert in 2012.