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Kenya's Rhinos Get Anti-Poaching Microchips

Mural calls for halt to rhino poaching in bid to save species from extinction, Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept. 18, 2013.
Kenyan wildlife officials have begun inserting microchips into rhinos in a bid to combat poachers, who kill the animals for their horns.

Officials say the chips and accompanying scanners will allow them to track the animals and help authorities link recovered or confiscated horns to poaching cases.

The Kenyan Wildlife Service received the equipment from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), whose Kenya spokesman Robert Magori says each rhino will have one chip implanted in its body and a second chip embedded in its horn.

"When a rhino is killed and the horn is hacked off and taken away, if this horn is confiscated and the microchip tag can be identified, it can be tracked back to a poached animal and it can actually show and prove that this was a poaching incident," he said.

Poaching incidents are on the rise in Kenya, which has a relatively small population of about 1,000 rhinos. Magori says poachers killed at least 23 of the animals last year and have killed at least 10 this year.

He believes the microchips will help deter thieves who are tempted to hack off rhino horns and then try to smuggle them out of the country.

"They will have no idea where the microchips are and so, it could be extremely dangerous for them to go through ports of entry as well as any immigration areas without them being noticed."

Rhino horns are often sold in Asian countries where some consumers believe they have healing properties.

The horns are made from the same material as human fingernails. Experts say they are worthless as a cure for diseases.