Anti-poaching campaigners accidentally kill rhino they were using in game reserve demo

Animal rights campaigners accidentally killed the rhino they were using in a demonstration to raise awareness of the threat to the endangered species from poachers, it was revealed today.

The anti-poaching activists invited journalists along to view the rhino in a South Africa reserve being sedated today so vets could treat its horn with dye and insecticide as well as insert tracking and identification devices.

But the demonstration took a disastrous turn when campaigners couldn't revive the male rhino, in his mid to late 20s, after the procedure had been completed.

This rhino died after veterinarians administered a drug to wake him up after a micro chip and tracking device were implanted in its horn at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve

Lorinda Hern, spokeswoman for the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, said: 'It's sad for us; it's the loss of another animal. It's a death that I still chalk up to poaching.'

The private reserve near the South African capital, Pretoria, began treating horns to make them unattractive to poachers after losing a pregnant rhino and her calf to poachers in 2010.

Ms Hern said 20 rhinos have undergone the procedure at the reserve and this was the first time a rhino had died.

She added that tests are under way to determine the cause of death, initially attributed to complications from either the sedative, or the drug intended to revive the animal.

But Ms Hern confirmed the death would not stop the reserve from continuing to perform the procedure on their rhinos - which are listed as critically endangered on the ICUN Red list of threatened species.

Staff at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, in the Cradle of Humankind outside Johannesburg, claimed this is the first time a rhino has died from the procedure

During the procedure, the rhino's horn is permeated with a neon pink dye similar to the one banks use to mark bills during robberies - helping law enforcers to identify rhino horn if attempts are made to sell it on the black market.

But the insecticide, which protects rhinos against ticks, can cause vomiting and other symptoms in humans.

Ms Hern said her reserve's intention was not to hurt humans but to deter poachers from killing animals to take their horns.

Last year, a record 448 rhinos were poached in South Africa, so their horns could be sold for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Demand for rhino horn among a growing Asian middle class is believed to be driving the poaching rise in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa.

The male rhino was in his 20s, which is considered old for the species, and may caused the adverse reaction to the sedation

Some Asians believe a rhino horn has medicinal properties - though science does not support that.

Joseph Okori, a wildlife veterinarian and a World Wildlife Fund rhino expert, was an independent observer of the sedation as part of WWF's research into anti-poaching techniques.

Okori said WWF did not support infusing horns with insecticides - which can be dangerous to humans who might eat powdered rhino horn.

But he said the dye, which did not affect the outward appearance of the horn, could help law enforcement officials trace horn shipments as airport security devices can detect the dye.

Okori said he had sedated about 50 rhinos for various reasons, including to relocate animals, in the last 15 years. He said one animal under his care had died.

He said: 'There is always a potential risk that a sedated animal will die.'

But added: 'The whole issue is, we are facing a serious rhino poaching crisis. This is a war. The desperation is quite high for rhino owners, to do whatever it takes to protect their rhinos.'



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