In May 2015, a photo purportedly showing a rhino with a pink horn along with the claim that the discoloration dissuades poachers began circulating on social media sites such as Tumblr and Reddit:
Example: [Collected via e-mail, April 2015]
Hey, this would be great if it was true, but Im skeptical.
While it’s true that at least one organization is using a pink dye in an effort to stop poaching, the above-displayed photo contains several pieces of misinformation.
First, the photo has been digitally manipulated. The results achieved by the Rhino Rescue Project, an organization that infuses rhino horns with a “compound made up of ectoparasiticides and indelible dye that contaminates the horn and renders it useless for ornamental or medicinal use” are not nearly as pronounced as the results shown in the above-displayed photo.
When the image was published by Take Part back in 2012, it was accompanied by a disclaimer stating that the “photo has been digitally altered” and that the rhino in the photo did not undergo any procedure to have its horn turned pink:
In fact, the dye used by the Rhino Rescue Project primarily affects the interior of the rhino horn. While in may produce slight exterior discoloration, the dye’s purpose is to introduce a color change from within the horn:
Our newly improved infusion process utilises very high pressures and a custom designed non-return valve that prevents the liquids from exiting through the drill hole(s) after the 10-15 min infusion has been completed. In addition, the non-return valve keeps the liquid in the horn under around 30 bars pressure for up to 10 days, ensuring that the liquid penetrates large areas of the internal horn structure.
On 23 July 2013, the Rhino Rescue Project posted an unretouched photograph of a rhino that had undergone the procedure:
And the patient is up! After being given antibiotics and painkillers, she should be feeling much more comfortable. Last reports received indicated she was doing well and recovering nicely.
At a minimum it would start with diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, all the way up to nervous symptoms, which could be permanent, Hern says. Some ectoparasiticides also precipitate the development of cancers later on in life.
It should also be noted that rhino horns are not properly “ivory” (as they are not teeth or tusks). Rhino horns are made of keratin.