Cape Town - Imagine getting close to a rhino, pressing your ear against its thick, rough skin to hear its heartbeat, and feeling its breath on your skin. It’s a rare privilege to be able to touch and appreciate this defenseless, endangered herbivore.
And, in aid of keeping the iconic species breathing for the next generation, Sun International’s flagship resort in Sun City has partnered with the Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust to offer guests a Rhino Notching Experience.
Guests will help a vet and work with park management officials to individually notch, implant an ID tag as well as collect DNA from the selected rhino, this will help identify and conserve the rhino.
These procedures assist park management in monitoring and managing their rhino populations.
Desperate times call for desperate measures
Rhino populations in Africa are dwindling as continued poaching puts their survival under threat.
And although the Rhino Notching Experience is a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals, the sole aim of the initiative is to assist the park with its conservation efforts by cataloguing and monitoring individual rhino in Pilanesberg National Park, bordering Sun City.
Notching rhino, putting ID chips in their horns and taking DNA from every animal, are procedures being added to park managements stringent security measures already in place to deter poaching.
Once the rhino is adequately sedated, ground crew and guests move in on foot and carry out the necessary procedures, guest can actively take part and assist the vet and park crew during the operation.
According to Perry Dell, Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust Marketing and PR Manager, “Notching the animals – giving them an individually based identification system – is core to the gathering of vital data. All data captured during the field expedition – Rhino Notching Experience - is recorded alongside any future observation by rhino monitoring officers, creating a biological database.”
He says that while humans are the main source of the species' eradication, we are also the only hope they have - we are the voice of the voiceless.
The stakes are high, as are the costs
The costs involved in a rhino immobilisation for this vital management operation, are high.
Hence, the Rhino Notching Experience was created for guests to weigh in on the cost involved in protecting the species - in exchange for a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, as well as making a considerable contribute to the conservation, and furthered protection, of these amazing creatures.
What the Rhino Notching Experience entails
Guests are briefed by Park Ecologist, Steve Dell on the general aspects of the rhino, poaching as well as “do’s & don’ts” while at the notching. The vet provides guests with information on the veterinary procedures to be performed.
The vet and pilot then fly around the property to find a suitable rhino, guests then move to the area the rhino is in.
After the vet darts and immobilises the rhino, guests can approach once it has been established that it is safe to do so.
Immediately after the rhino is immobilised the vet and park ecological services, helped by guests, do the necessary notching and DNA collection.
Once all veterinary and ecological work is done, and in consideration of the rhinos’ absolute welfare, individual and group photos can be taken.
When all the required aspects are completed the vet will reverse the anaesthesia, which wakes the rhino up within three minutes.
Guests, at a safe distance, can watch the rhino wake and move off back into the bush. The whole experience can take between 90 minutes and 3 hours, depending on group numbers.
The group size is limited to 15 persons per rhino. In winter it is possible to notch 4 to 5 rhinos back to back.
“The rhino’s safety, welfare, and dignity is our priority at all times. The rhino notching will be halted immediately if the Vet attending to the rhino decides it is at risk,” Perry says.
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