An ingenious way of saving rhinos

Environment > An ingenious way of saving rhinos

You can read this in 2 minutes

Dye hard — an ingenious way of saving rhinos

10 May 2021, 10:00 AM


The problem of wildlife poaching is rife, especially in southern African countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa. Security patrols and policing in these countries try their best, but the poachers are always finding new and calculated ways to evade them.

A complex and difficult problem like this needs a radical and inventive solution. This is where the Rhino Rescue Project comes in.  

From 2007 to 2014, rhino poaching in Africa increased by a staggering 9,000%. Where once the savannahs were busy with rhino, the numbers are falling at an alarming rate.

In the fight to stop this tragic practice, the Rhino Rescue Project has come up with an ingenious way of protecting these animals: by devaluing their prized horns with dye. This doesn't harm the rhinos in any way, aside from a bit of colour clash with the rest of their outfit.

The horns are infused with something called an ectoparisiticide, which is commonly used to rid the surface skin of animals of parasitic infestations. It's not lethal to humans, but can make them very sick. The tubular structure of the horns on a micro level means the dye needs can be infused using a high pressure pump. This process takes about 10-15 minutes.

Because the horns are consumed in the medicines, dyeing them with this red pesticide makes them poisoned and tainted. Poaching is a dangerous game, and poachers won’t risk their lives to secure a contaminated, potentially poisonous horn. To the poachers, these horns are worthless.

The Rhino Rescue Project is a fantastic example of how compassion can fuel innovation, and that thinking laterally can help to solve problems where solutions seem thin on the ground.

Tell you what’s not thin on the ground though – rhinos.

394 rhinos Poached last year

Warning: may blow your mind!

Check out our top picks


The food waste app that’s revolutionising the way we eat


Saving the ice caps, one bead at a time


The future of sustainable fashion

Incredible people, unbelievable stories


We can all
change the world

We are #DifferenceMakers, a ground-breaking movement inspiring us all to make a change, no matter how big or small, by sharing remarkable stories of how engineering and technology are saving the world around us. Expect the unexpected – from super sustainable fashion and squeaky clean streaming, to apps that combat food waste and
tech to stop the ice caps melting.

We’re changing the way everyone sees engineering and technology, and proving they're a force to be reckoned with when it comes to saving our planet! If you care about making a difference and want to learn more, then join our movement today.

#DifferenceMakers was created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) – one of the world’s largest engineering institutions and a diverse home for everyone in engineering and technology.