Ten Strategies to Save the Rhino: Which will REALLY work?

Many strategies to stop rhino poaching: de-horning to anti-poaching rangers, fix the courts to rhino horn treatment, tackling wildlife trafficking to poverty.

It’s been two years since we started Nikela (a US based public charity) as a vehicle to help those on the ground in Africa saving wildlife. In March (2011) we got involved in the race to save the rhino from poaching and the wildlife trafficking of its horn to Asia. We carefully evaluated where your donations can do the most good. It seemed like a simple task. Was I wrong! For the first months it was relatively simple: find local organizations with the largest reach to protect the rhino via training and running anti-poaching units.

At the beginning of 2012 the whole notion of saving the rhino exploded, with so many getting on board and with so many different notions as to how to do this.

Do you have any idea how many different proposed ways there are to save the rhino? I’ve discovered ten that are being held up as “the” way to do it, however, this may not be an exhausted list at all.

Here are ten, some may be complementary and others totally conflicting, strategies to save Africa’s rhino from the ravages of poaching (which one do you think will really work?):

10 Strategies to Save the Rhino:

  1. Educate the end users in Asia
  2. De-horn the rhino
  3. Rhino horn treatment
  4. Legalize the trading of rhino horn
  5. Rhino trophy hunting
  6. Better equipped and more anti-poaching rangers
  7. Special Ops trained law enforcement
  8. More effective Courts
  9. High Tech and innovative systems and equipment
  10. Address the poverty issue

Now let me describe each briefly. I leave out names to protect the ”innocent” and refrain from giving free publicity to the “guilty”:

Educate the end users in Asia

This is of course a must do. The consumer in Asia needs to know that they are buying a bogus product with absolutely no medicinal value at all. They need to know that it’s pure superstition and centuries of tradition laced with a tremendous amount of money to be made that drives the use of rhino horn (and other endangered species body parts.) The Chinese however claim that it is not their problem and few are getting on the education band wagon.

De-horn the rhino

At first blush this seems like a good idea. After all, no horn – no dead rhino. Wrong! Apparently a rhino horn can only safely be sawn off several inches above the rhino’s face. If you’ll notice the rhino who have been poached have the horn and its stump brutally removed because the bulk of the potency is in the root (science has shown the entire horn has no healing powers and is basically made of the same substance as our finger nails… so go chew on a finger nail!). Let’s not forget the rhino has a horn for a reason, actually several: it forages with it, uses it to lift up its new born and uses it for jousting.

Rhino horn treatment

This method is being applied successfully by some rhino owners. It is costly and requires the attendance of a veterinarian. The rhino needs to be anesthetized which would make it difficult it seems for the wild rhinos in the larger reserves to be protected this way. I’m also told that the treatment has not been around long enough to ascertain any negative side effects, though when you weigh the options; dead vs side effects… Unfortunately, it doesn’t assure the rhino’s safety 100% either in that a gang of poachers may only find out the horn has been treated after the fact.

Legalize the trading of rhino horn

To trade or not to trade is is by far the hottest issue as much money stands to be made by the rhino owners. With rhino horns worth hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s a no brainer for rhino ranchers, or wanna-be game farmers. Of course, what’s not taken into consideration is the ethics of this trade. It would feed directly into a myth about the medicinal properties of the horn. Some contend that it would not stop the poaching as the existing rhino ranchers could not keep up with the demand. Like with de-horning, the stump still remains, making the rhino susceptible to the poacher’s gun, not forgetting nature endowed the rhino with horns for a reason, or three.

Rhino trophy hunting

The practice of offering a rhino for a canned hunt to a hunter willing to pay big money in the name of raising funds to protect other rhino is absurdity. Kill rhino A to save rhino B… huh?

Better equipped and more anti-poaching rangers

Rangers are being trained and equipped with better technology and apparatus than ever before, yet the poaching continues. However, I’m told where they do operate with good intelligence they are most effective. So rangers are undoubtedly a must to keep poachers at bay. However, rangers have no jurisdiction other than in the park or game reserve they work on so once the horn is enroute to exit the country they are no longer effective.

Special Ops trained law enforcement

My sources tell me that regular law enforcement personnel is not trained or equipped to deal with organized crime and illegal trade. Therefor training is essential for apprehending poachers and more importantly gathering the intel needed to catch the crime bosses, as well as know how to properly gather information at the poaching sites as evidence for prosecution.

More effective Courts

As the number of rhinos poached, number of arrests and especially the non-disclosed number of convictions have horrible ratios it would appear that the court system needs some help. Help to more competently address not only the poaching issue, but also the organized crime system that lies at the root of the wildlife trafficking trail from South Africa to Asia.

High Tech and innovative systems and equipment

The use of helicopters, small aircraft, sniffer dogs, infra-red and GPS systems may all play a huge role in tracking the movements of both the rhino, its horn and the bad guys. However, these high tech and innovative systems carry a high price tag. Now I would think that a country being ravaged by illegal trade would marshal all its resources to stop this bleeding. Especially, as it is not isolated to the rhino and stands to strip South Africa of its amazing wildlife and totally impoverish the nation as corruption does.

Address the poverty issue

This final matter is not addressed by any of the above and needs attention. My source tells me that in his work he finds the desperately poor will do most anything to earn some money to support their families. So if the crime bosses could no longer recruit poachers for a dime a dozen as they can now the playing field would seemingly also change. Only when the people’s basic human needs are met can they begin to consider protecting and conserving other species, namely the endangered rhino and other threatened wildlife species.

These ten strategies have not been discussed in detail, they are merely presented here because they represent the great divide and disparity amongst those many touting to save the rhino from extinction.

Let’s truly identify which one, or ones, of these will work and band together and get on with the business of protecting the rhino and ending the senseless poaching.


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15 Responses to Ten Strategies to Save the Rhino: Which will REALLY work?

  1. Morlyn.lyn June 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    To educate is a long term solution. I would:
    1) Stop all Rhino hunting.
    2) Rhino horn treatment c/w dna
    3) Better equipped and more anti-poaching rangers
    4) Special ops trained law enforcement
    5) MUCH more effective courts and longer sentences etc.
    6) High-Tech equipment.

    This will build a wall of protection around our Rhino. Thereafter, we can talk about education. We are dealing with ancient cultures who now have money too – it won’t be easy to convince them that Rhino horn has no benefit – I believe it is purely a status symbol for them, as with Tiger and Lion bones and anything else that they grind up or eat!. We have always had poverty, not saying that it is good or right, but NEVER before have our Rhino be slaughtered at such a rate. We must protect and conserve them – the Government must step up and show their strength in protecting one of our iconic Big 5’s.

    • Wildlife Margrit June 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      Thanks so much for taking time to share your thoughts Morlyn.lyn

  2. perseverencechigariro June 25, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    take all rhinos and put them in one managable place

    • Wildlife Margrit June 25, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      That seems like a wonderful idea. However, there are a few things that stand in the way, I mention them very cryptically :
      1) The right safe place
      2) The cost of getting them there
      3) The “mixing” of gene pools
      4) The tragedy if they were discovered by poachers

  3. perseverencechigariro June 25, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    I thint puting all rhinos in a one well protected place could save them.

    • cole bluto May 3, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      well perservencechigariro if we close them in a small aria then they will not be wild life animals anymore. no animals will come and interact with the rhinos and it would ruin the ecosystem.

      • Adrian chessman February 5, 2017 at 4:35 am #

        Unfortunately as idealistic as this sounds, it will do nothing to protect or conserve the ecosystems that rely on the presence of rhino to survive and remain in balance. We do not only need rhino in the world for their aesthetic and emotional value, they are crucial, as apex consumers, to the wellbeing of the particular system they form a part of. We endeavour to protect the rhino, in order to conserve the environment.

        • Wildlife Margrit February 6, 2017 at 5:19 am #

          Thanks Adrian

  4. Alex September 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    and the place should have enough resources for the Rhinos, the place should not have a limited carrying capacity n limiting factors. As much as we want our Rhinos to live, I think we should do no matter what it takes to save them n putting them in the same place, which will have high-tech equipment n great better equipped and more anti-poaching rangers to protect them, seems like a great idea to me (personally).

    • Wildlife Margrit September 12, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      Thanks for commenting Alex. You are not the first person to recommend bringing the rhino together so that they can be more adequately protected.

      If we could allow/create the natural ecosystems for the rhino (and all African wildlife) then it appears nature would take care of itself… if we humans stayed out of the way. However, this is of course idealistic… but then, why not put the ideal out there?

  5. cole bluto May 3, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    what if someone puts a tracker that detects injuries from the rhino so if a poacher came to saw the horn it will detect that and someone can go to that spot with a helicopter or something like that.

    • Wildlife Margrit May 9, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

      Cole thanks for your comment

  6. cole bluto May 10, 2016 at 11:04 am #

    your welcome wildlife margrit do you think its a good idea

  7. Arpit Shukla December 29, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    I thint puting all rhinos in a one well protected place could save them.

    • Arpit Shukla December 29, 2016 at 8:29 am #

      If we could allow/create the natural ecosystems for the rhino (and all African wildlife) then it appears nature would take care of itself… if we humans stayed out of the way. However, this is of course idealistic… but then, why not put the ideal out there?

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