Single Session

[Schedule Grid]

MPM-B - Special Session: The Rhisotope Project - Using radioisotopes to combat illicit wildlife trafficking

Woodrow Wilson B   14:30 - 17:00

Chair(s): Thomas Johnson
MPM-B.1   14:30  The Rhisotope Project: Justification of planned doses to black (Diceros bicornis) and white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) James Larkin, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Abstract: The final phase of the research is the pilot project. So that this might proceed it is necessary for permission from both the national regulator and the university’s animal ethics committee. This will be based on a formal justification and optimisation of these planned exposures. These actions are based on a comparison of calculated doses and measured doses using a full-scale phantom which are then compared to research work carried out at both Chornobyl and Fukushima, and the resultant doses received by various animal populations in those regions. For the purposes of this exercise only external doses will be considered.

MPM-B.2   15:00  Using 13C and 15N To Track Potential Movement of Material In White Rhinoceros Horn (Ceratotherium Simum). JF Larkin*, University of Witwatersrand

Abstract: As the crisis of poaching of rhinoceros continues almost unabated various techniques have been tried to reduce this destruction of one of Africa’s prime megaherbivores. The Rhisotope Project was established in response to this threat. To properly understand some of the properties of rhinoceros horn and thereby get a better insight into what would be the appropriate radioisotopes to insert into the horn, an experiment was done to look at the diffusion properties of rhinoceros horn. L-proline an amino acid, readily metabolised by rhinoceros, labelled with 13C and 15N was inserted into the horns of two subadult white rhinoceros males with the intention of examining the ratios of 13C/12C and 15N/14N in faecal and blood samples. These animals were moved to a separate field where faecal samples were taken daily and blood samples on a fortnightly basis. Results indicate no movement of the L-proline into the body of these animals.

MPM-B.3   15:20  Preliminary Study of Doses to Rhinoceros Basal Cells from a Radioactive Source to Deter Poaching JA Hillis*, Texas A&M University ; CM Marianno, Texas A&M University; J Ford, Texas A&M University

Abstract: Since the beginning of the 20th century, over 80% of the rhinoceros’ population has declined in the wild due to poaching and habitat degradation. The rapid decline has forced the surviving rhinos to live in private reserves and national parks. A method of deterrence has been proposed that would employ implanted radiation sources in the rhinoceros’ horn to deter poaching. To begin this study, researchers at Texas A&M University are attempting to determine potential doses to the horn stem cells. To model these doses a source was assumed to be centered in a horn 10 cm above the base. In order to help determine the most appropriate source, this research analyzed doses produced from gamma sources ranging from 100 to 2000 keV. Using hand calculations, conservative dose rate estimates were determined as a function of energy and activity and then used to validate computational models in MCNP. Results were normalized as a function of source activity. Modeled dose rate results ranged from 0.42 mSv yr-1 at 100 keV to 41.57 mSv yr-1 at 2000 keV for the basal epithelial cells that form the horn. To understand the risk of deterministic and stochastic effects in the at-risk tissues these results will be compared to other more characterized large animal radiosensitivity models to determine the overall risk to the animal.

MPM-B.4   15:40  Break

MPM-B.5   16:00  Finding suitable isotopes for labelling Rhinoceros horn CG Kros, South African Nuclear Energy Corporation SOC ; D Kotze, South African Nuclear Energy Corporation SOC; J van Rooyen, North-West University; A Buffler, University of Cape Town; A Faanhof, University of Cape Town

Abstract: A current research project is underway to investigate the use of radionuclides to label Rhinoceros horn to enable the detection of poached Rhinoceros horn at border control points through radiation monitoring. The labelling (‘tagging’) considered different techniques such as the in situ activation of horn on live animals, impregnating horn with radioactive dyes and physical implanting radioactive material in horn. The latter, being the implanting of capsules or nails into the horn, is proving to be most viable in terms of practicality and offering variability of isotopes. This presentation will discuss the studies performed using neutron activation on different commercial materials and the radiometric analysis performed to identify suitable isotopes. Suitable isotopes are those which are readily activated, exhibits measurable gamma ray energies and possesses adequate half-lives. The unique combination of isotopes obtained from the activation of different materials further provides the opportunity to ‘fingerprint’ the horns.

MPM-B.6   16:20  Detection of Smuggled Rhinoceros Horns TE Johnson*, Colorado State University ; E DeVincenzo, Colorado State University; J Bell, Colorado State University

Abstract: The detection of radioactive materials in rhinoceros horns presents multiple challenges. Calculating the maximum and type of activity to implant into the horn is an initial goal, and the follow up goal is ascertaining if sufficient activity is present to be detected at ports of entry. Detection of illicit radioactive materials via a portal monitor is complex. Creation of a theoretical function to determine the minimum activity necessary to alarm a portal monitor was attempted. Typically, portal monitors operate with a decision level set for a Type 1 error of 5% and a Type 2 error of 50%. Since the goal is detection, a missed detection is unwanted in this situation. Using an activity goal that achieves a Type 2 error of 5% is desirable. Additionally, an assumed time for counting the sample is needed. The assumed sample count time for the model was the transit time of three detector widths. The activity is further constrained to be contained within a thickness of steel similar to that of a container. Completion of the detection criteria in combination with the maximum activity will provide a theoretical basis for the minimum activity required in a rhinoceros horn to allow detection at a port of entry.

MPM-B.7   16:40  The Rhisotope Project: Where to after rhinos? How else might the techniques being developed by the project be applied? James Larkin, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Abstract: Ever since people have heard about the project, pleas have been made to see where else the technique might be applied. From illicit logging to the sale of pangolins and their scales. Illicit wildlife trafficking globally has been estimated to be worth $40 billion annually. It is on a par with drugs, weapons, and human trafficking. Consideration will be given to the practical, legal, regulatory, and ethical issues associated with potential applications.

[back to schedule]