#ShockWildlifeTruths: Project Rhino’s call to dehorn rhino

2017-11-03 09:07
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Cape Town - Project Rhino, an association of like-minded organisations established in 2011 that facilitates vital rhino conservation interventions, is making a national and international call for funding to have approximately 200 rhino dehorned in KwaZulu-Natal, over the next year.

Dehorning is seen as a temporary measure to prevent the killing of a rhino for its horn by poachers. It is an ongoing process, as the horn regrows after removal.

However, despite organisations saying that dehorning has positive results for rhinos, dehorned rhinos were killed at Wildschutsberg Game Reserve in Eastern Cape. The Reserve's owner, Greg Harvey is outraged following the killing of his entire dehorned rhino population in the last two weeks on the private game reserve.

SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Rhino poachers wipe-out Eastern Cape private game reserve's entire herd

KZN has lost close on 200 rhino this year, compared to 162 rhino in 2016. While these figures are alarming, the dehorning intervention has achieved positive results over the last two years since it was initiated in a many of the private reserves in KZN.

For five years since 2011, the rhinos poached on private reserves made up 24% of the total lost in the provinces. Since dehorning started, this number has dropped to an average of 4.5% over the past 2 years. 

ALSO SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Rhino horn online auction pros and cons, readers respond

"Although by no means a silver bullet, the dehorning efforts of rhino have proved a very effective tool in deflecting poachers. We recognise this is not necessarily a tool that can be applied to all reserves such as those with big populations and therefore unable to deploy such a strategy, but on the smaller reserves, it can prove effective. The reserves with larger populations, however, will require our full and ongoing support as they may take the brunt of this deflection strategy," says Dr Simon Morgan, Director at WildlifeACT and Project Rhino Founder member. 

The dehorning process is conducted by an experienced wildlife veterinarian and a team of specialists whereby the rhino is sedated, and the horn is removed and shaped to take off as much horn material as possible in a quick and painless procedure.

(Photo: Chris Galliers)

Chris Galliers, Project Rhino co-ordinator, says “Our member reserves, who are made up of private, community and state owned reserves, have communicated to Project Rhino that one of their greatest needs is to dehorn all their rhino and to continue to maintain the horns as short as possible.”

Project Rhino has conducted 25 horn removals on rhino from KZN reserves since June this year, costing a total of R200 000. The organisation is now faced with overwhelming requests to conduct over 200 horn removals in KZN which will cost approximately R1.6 million.

SEE: #WorldRhinoDay: Why we need to protect our rhinos

At an average of R7000-8000 per rhino, the costs quickly add up and have been further exacerbated by other budget demands and budget cuts to many Rhino Reserves. One of the ways to achieve this is to offer both local and international members of the public, a chance to be directly involved in this critical conservation work.

The payment towards this experience will contribute directly to a current and vital conservation intervention. Project Rhino wants to encourage everyone, from individuals to large corporate businesses, to get involved in this project and join in the fundraising efforts, noting the benefit of issuing tax deductible 18a certificates on every donation made.

(Photo: Chris Galliers)

“Wildlands and Somkhanda have made the decision to dehorn its rhino and found it to be very effective in devaluing the horn and increasing the risk to poachers. It is not something we like to do but we have taken this proactive stance as a temporary measure which gives us more time to work on other important systems that are used to protect our rhino,” says Dave Gilroy, Wildlands strategic manager - conservation.  


Integrated Strategic Management Approach

DEA's report in July 2017 on the progress of the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management Approach of Rhinoceros shows a "slight decrease" in poaching.

SEE: SA sees 'slight decrease' in rhino poaching in 2017

"A total of 529 rhino have been poached since January 2017, compared to 542 in the same period for 2016, representing a decrease of 13 rhinos," says The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa.

However, rhino poaching increased in KZN in that same period. In an attempt to combat the increase of poaching in KZN, Molewa says "Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has begun strengthening its response capacity as an anti-poaching unit in line with the existing Mission Area Joint Operational Center (MAJOC). As part of the plan, they are now in the process of setting up an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) to ensure priority allocation of resources to where it matters most."

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