D-Day: Dehorning Rhino. The Fight Against Poaching

D-Day: The Fight Against Poaching

This year in total 404 rhino have been killed in South Africa. At its current rate, poaching effectively means that 1 rhino is killed roughly every 12 hours.

Due to the severity of the issue and the alarming rate at which rhinos are disappearing, that an extremely difficult decision was made by the owner and manager of the reserve where our Wilderness Conservation and Wildlife Research programme in South Africa to dehorn the rhino on the reserve. Here is the heavy heart account of the decision and the process of dehoring those rhino!

The process

One rhino after the horn was removed.

One of the most fascinating sights to behold in the Africa bush, a silhouette of a fully grown rhino against the back drop of a fiery red sky at sunset, its horn displayed in such a magnificent fashion. This vision is fast becoming a thing of the past.

 The operation started first thing in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. Dr Peter Rogers arrived with his team and also a representative from the local DEAT office to regulate the legal side of the operation. By helicopter, Dr Rogers first located the rhinos and then once close enough it was lowered for him to administer the tranquiliser.

Micro Chipping the rhino horn

The skilled pilot carefully pushed the rhino as close as possible to a road. A few moments later the drug would take effect and the ground crew were called into the location. The rhinos eyes were covered and the line was drawn on the horn were it was to be removed. A chain saw was the tool of choice and both horns were removed from the rhino. Not a pleasant noise nor indeed sight.

Each rhino then received ear notches for identification purposes and a number of DNA samples including blood, hair and tissue samples were taken. Rhinos were then administered the reversal drug and was awake and back on its feet in a short space, minus its horn.
Then the team was back up in the air to locate the next rhino. Each procedure took approximately one hour and all the rhinos on the reserve were found and dehorned. All the rhino horns were collected, photographed, weighed, chipped and safely secured for storage off the reserve.

In addition a film crew was present during the entire day. The footage is be used to make a documentary for Chinese television to try and highlight the issue.

Removing the rhinos horn

Why Dehorn at the Reserve? 

Within South Africa, the Limpopo province suffers the second highest number of rhino losses every year (after Mpumalanga) due to poaching.Other reserves in the area had their rhinos dehorned in 2010. Poaching has got closer and closer to the reserve of our Wilderness Conservation and Wildlife Research volunteer programme in South Africa. In the last few months over 10 rhino had been killed in the immediate vicinity of the reserve, therefore, it was felt that this drastic decision had to be made to ensure the safety of the rhinos. Dehorned rhinos in the other local reserves have survived since the procedure in 2010 and poaching in those areas seemly has diminished.

The whole process although seemly drastic and invasive is felt to be the only action to be taken against the rising poaching threat. This was done in conjuction with other efforts such as patrols, fence checks and camp outs.

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