9 May 2012

South Africa: Rhino CSI, a Country Reality

Photo: World Wildlife Fund
Wildlife veterinarian Dr Jacques Flamand helps a rhino.

High tech has been brought in to hammer rhino poachers... Composed and gently spoken, veterinarian and genetics specialist, Dr Cindy Harper, tells the extraordinary story of RhODIS: South Africa's two-year-old rhino DNA index system that was first believed to be an impossible project, but is now playing a major role in prosecuting rhino poachers through forensic DNA testing.

Her account contains statistics that are both captivating and heartbreaking, information that is both motivating and an eye-opener.

Yet, it is her reason for pushing this project to fruition and turning it into the worldwide standard for rhino DNA profiling, which sums up the compassion, determination and tenacity surrounding RhODIS.

"I have been in the field. I have witnessed first-hand the distress of rhino young tragically orphaned through the slaughter of their mothers.

I have seen black rhinos display their courage by storming helicopters to protect their young, and white rhinos giving chase to vehicles that pose a threat.

Rhinos are emotional animals with a strong social and emotional connection. If you had to compare rhinos to a domestic animal, they would be closest to horses.

If something tragic happens in their life it places them under severe stress. Rhinos are animals you can connect to and it is this reality that keeps us dedicated to the DNA profiling of rhinos, to make a difference," she says.

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