So what can be done to stop the poachers? There are lots of ideas out there.
One option is to legalize the trade of horns and tusks. Supporters of this course of action argue that this would take the trade out of the hands of criminals and that, by flooding the market, the price of ivory would drop along with the incentive to kill them. However, this has not yet been properly evaluated and there are fears that illegal traders would still undercut official operators. Since the current ivory ban is not being enforced effectively, legal trade is unlikely to be either. Legalising trade might also increase demand for ivory.
2. Improved security
More work is needed to improve security, particularly at borders between countries and at key locations in the ivory trade chain. To be effective, this needs to take a multi-country and multi-organization approach to ensure security all along the common ivory routes (most ivory leaves via East African seaports). Namibia are utilizing their armed forces to sure up their borders. More support and training are needed in addition to improved law enforcement to enhance anti-poaching tracking and intelligence operations.
3. De-horning and Tusking
A common suggestion is to remove horns and tusks from animals, the idea being, for example, that a rhino without a horn will not be poached. There have been some successes with this method but it doesn't always work. Many hornless or tuskless animals are still killed, either to access the "stump" of ivory left behind or out of vengeance. Animals need their horns or tusks for social and feeding behavior and they also grow back with time. The process of removing them is risky for the animals as well as costly and logistically difficult. Save the Rhino recommend that dehorning is used as a last resort alongside other anti-poaching measures.
4. Destroying ivory stocks
Following Kenya's example back in the 80s, China recently destroyed its ivory stocks for the first time, sending a message to to the world that trade in ivory will not be tolerated. But there is little evidence of whether this is anything more than a gesture or if it actually has any impact on poaching.
Education and public awareness both in Africa and in Asia, where the demand for ivory originates, is essential but this may be too slow a process to save the world's elephants and rhinos.
At a rhino reserve in Kenya, innovative drone technology is being tested to help rangers in the fight against poaching. These drones, which also operate after dark using night vision and thermal imaging, can be operated via laptop and act as an extra pair of eyes, helping to locate poachers within the reserve. More research is needed but initial trials have been positive.
7. Modified Horns and tusks
Another innovative idea is to modify horns and tusks in some way to deter poachers. At one reserve in South Africa, rhino horns are injected with a mixture of pink dye and poison. The dye can be detected by airport scanners and when ground into a powder, and the poison is not fatal but enough to make the consumer very ill. There are however mixed opinions on this approach. It is feared that although poachers may be deterred in areas where the scheme is highly publicized, it is impractical for animals free-ranging in very large areas; it may just displace poaching to another area. And logistically it would be impossible to apply this technique to a large number of animals.