‘Dehorning saves rhinos’

2015-08-17 09:20
Zululand Wildlife vet Dr Mike Toft dehorns a white rhino at the Nambiti Private Game Reserve on Saturday in an effort to prevent future poaching.

Zululand Wildlife vet Dr Mike Toft dehorns a white rhino at the Nambiti Private Game Reserve on Saturday in an effort to prevent future poaching. (Chris Pearson, Wildcon Safaris And Events)

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IN an effort to prevent the poaching of precious rhino, Nambiti Private Game Reserve in KZN spent the weekend cutting off horns that had grown back on some of their white rhinos.

The decision to dehorn white rhino at the reserve was first implemented five years ago in an attempt to stop poachers from targeting rhinos there.

Nambiti chair, Clarke Smith, said since they started dehorning their white rhino, they had no incidents of dehorned rhinos being poached at their reserve. “We believe it makes them a far less attractive target to poachers and along with other measures, such as a strong and effective anti-poaching unit, we will hopefully be able to keep our rhino safe.

“The only rhino we have lost over the last five years had not been dehorned yet, as we were busy rolling out the dehorning programme,” he said.

Zululand Wildlife vet Dr Mike Toft, who carried out the dehorning of the white rhinos, and said the rhino is put under anaesthetic and the horn is removed with a chainsaw.

“We round the horn off with an angle grinder hoof trim, which is commonly used to trim the hooves of cattle.

“We reduce the horn to basically nothing to make it less attractive to poachers.”

Toft said there was no sure way to stop poaching altogether, but dehorning is believed to help divert poachers’ attention from the rhino.

Smith said, as well as dehorning two of their white rhino at the weekend, Toft was also involved in inserting radio transmitters in the horns of two of Nambiti’s adult black rhino bulls.

Toft explained that black rhinos cannot be dehorned as they use their horns to protect themselves from predators, such as lions, especially if nursing a young calf.

“The transmitter can only be placed into the horn of an adult rhino as the horn has to be quite large.

“The radio is inserted near the base of the horn with the aerial running up the horn.

“The transmitter will radio locate the whereabouts of the rhino and helps the reserve monitor them.

“Black rhino are quite secretive and prefer to stay in the bush. You won’t often see them out in the open,” said Toft.

He said that because of this, when they are poached, the body is often only found three to four weeks, or “sometimes even months” later.

“So if the transmitter loses signal, the reserve can immediately begin looking for the rhino.”

Clarke said the reserve also took the opportunity at the weekend to administer booster contraceptive shots to some of their female elephants.

“This is necessary as our elephant herd has grown so well that their numbers need to be controlled so that they do not exceed the carrying capacity of the game reserve.

“Because of their size, elephants obviously have a major impact on the habitat. It is a well thought out and planned programme with careful consideration given to the herd dynamics,” he added.

Toft said the shots took three years to take effect and only a few of the females were given shots to enable the other elephants to maintain the herd

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  rhino

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