A demonstration of a new anti-poaching procedure came to a tragic end in South Africa yesterday. A white rhino that had been sedated in order for veterinarians to implant a tracking device in his horn—and inject it with dye and a pesticide toxic to humans—died under anesthesia in front of stunned journalists, the Globe and Mail reports. "It’s a tragedy, it’s a disaster," says Charles van Niekerk, the vet who developed the technique. The rhino, nicknamed Spencer, was relatively old, and vets will do a post-mortem to see if he had a heart condition.
Van Niekerk says this is the first rhino to die during the experimental procedure. Sedating an animal that size is always risky, he says, but the poaching crisis in South Africa is so severe that desperate measures are called for. "The easy way out is to say ‘No more’—but then the poachers win," he says. "We’re being driven by a desperate need to do something. We had to begin sooner than we wanted to, but if we waited three or four years, are we going to have any rhinos left?" (Read more rhinoceros stories.)