Pupil Contributions, Clifton College

Pupil Contributions, Clifton College

 Lauren O'Hagan: 04/12/2017

Whilst many of us may recognise that images of rhinos and elephants on social media with bright pink horns and tusks respectively, are digitally altered on platforms such as Photoshop, I did wonder why such practices were not put in place? After all, many species of rhino and elephant are critically endangered, and by simply dying the ivory, surely that would detract ivory poachers since the huge appeal of   ivory is its pale shiny colour. However, as with most things, the situation is not as simple as it seems.

Firstly, there is the issue of camouflage: many rhinos, like most animals in the bush, are adapted to hiding within their surroundings, and as a consequence, pink, red or purple horns would not only make it difficult to hide but also highlight their presence to poachers. Additionally rhinos tend to wallow in dust and mud, so any pigment would quickly be covered.

Secondly, there is also the issue with the duration of the pigmentation  as the dye would quickly wear off within a month and as a consequence, there is the issue that it wouldn't be a permanent solution.  So, even if its effect on camouflage wasn't an issue, there is also the problem that you would find it particularly difficult to maintain the colour of the elephant and rhino horns.

Thirdly, there is the problem that ivory is a non porous substance; in the same way if you dipped an iron bolt into pink dye, if you then cut it in half, you wouldn't expect any dye to seep through: the same applies to the horn. This means that it would be easy to remove areas of the horn affected by the dye, and still have a sizable quantity of ivory available to sell on.Another issue with it is that a third of an elephant's tusk is embedded into its skull, and so ivory poachers might still feel the need to kill the elephant as a third of the tusk would remain unaffected.

Unfortunately this is a solution that whilst at first thought seems greatly appealing,  is impractical; instead, conservationists must work together to find a more effective solution as quickly as possible in order to save these magnificent creatures.