How to save a rhino crash from poachers by dehorning is one of several methods tried by rhino owners.
We’ve all heard about dehorning rhino to make them less attractive to poachers. Some rhino owners have found it successful while others have sadly still suffered losses.
Ayesha Cantor, author of the informative series Rhino Friday is a game farm owner which is home to a rhino crash. No matter what you may think of those who own rhinos and their motives for doing so Ayesha shares her family’s personal choice to save a rhino crash from poachers via the dehorning process.
Let’s join Ayesha
[Ayesha’s own words and photos, shared with permission]
The Night Before…
The night before the scheduled procedures, we wished we could call off the ‘event’, sleep eluded us….
From the minute wildlife vet Dr William Fowlds briefed his teams that morning, the media and us as a family together with our staff, we felt somewhat reassured.
His calm presence and detailed explanations of what we can expect of the day, was enough to settle the butterflies and accept that we were indeed doing the right thing for our rhino….
Dr Will, already a Rhino Hero having saved Kariega’s rhino Thandi from a brutal poaching where her face was entirely hacked off by poachers, was again the hero of the day. (Also the author of POACHED!)
His last words to us before starting out were –
” We are not going to win this fight by dehorning rhino but by changing perceptions – continue creating awareness with every opportunity. We have got to be the best we can be for rhino today’’
The Risk Factor…
We absolutely know that this is not a 100% safety measure, but it’s just one more thing, besides ‘eyes on 24/7’ that we can do to give them a better chance of survival.
We absolutely hate to deface these magnificent behemoths in this way, but we feel have a sense that it is not a matter of ‘if’ but of ‘when’, the poaches will come….
This was not a decision taken lightly – It took us months, as a family, to finally reach some sort of consensus …
Dehorning is not a suitable method of protection in most cases as a rhino’s horn is it’s ONLY form of defence against predators and even other wildlife like elephant and buffalo who have been known to clash with rhino. We have no predators or elephant in this park, our rhino live in relative safety from other wildlife, it’s the two legged ‘animals’ they only need to fear here.
With poaching increasing at an alarming rate (619 + this year so far – OSCAP) 2014 looks to top by far the unbelievable figure of 1004 rhino poached in 2013. While the Kruger National Park, Limpopo & Mpumalanga provinces are hardest hit, all indications are that our Eastern Cape Province is being targeted more and more as anti poaching methods are having more success in the hard hit areas.
We, as private rhino owners receive zero assistance from the government nor from the multitude of NGO’s that receive millions of rands in donor funds to ‘save the rhino’. It would be so easy to simply sell our rhino and be done with it. Instead, we feel that we have a responsibility to take the very best care of the family herd of rhino on our property, to carry the costs and do what we have to, to keep them as safe as we possibly can from being brutally poached.
The Immobilizer Drug…
As the rhino begins to show signs that the drugs are taking effect – star gazing and high stepping – Dr Will quietly approaches with blindfold in hand. As the drug is an immobilizer, not an anesthetic, being blindfolded and having it’s ears plugged helps reduce the possible stress due to our human proximity.
The Crucial Position…
All hands on to roll rhino into a safe and comfortable position.
Being such heavy animals it is of vital importance to make sure the rhino is in a comfortable position and is able to breath with ease…
The Team of Vets…
Dr Will was ably assisted on the day by his VETS GONE WILD teams who carefully monitor the sedated rhino, calling out vitals to Dr Will as he works on the ‘sharp end’
Dr William Fowlds carefully measurs the safe point to cut into the horn.
Taking too much off would mean cutting into the live growth point which would be like cutting into flesh….
We stand in awe at this remarkable man.
Calm, organised, compassionate to both rhino and humans involved in the days events, accommodating and forever seeking to further the cause at every opportunity.
A big BRAVO and a massive heartfelt thank you to Dr Will and his fantastic team
Almost unbearable to witness, the gunning engine of the chainsaw, the rotating blades, the heavily puffing blindfolded rhino……
Hate having to deface our magnificent behemoths in this way…the ONLY consolation is that they stand a better chance of not being brutally hacked to death…..
According to regulations, each horn removed immediately has a hole drilled and a microchip inserted.
Material is also collected and marked to be sent to Onderstepoort for DNA testing.
The RHODIS programme keeps a record of all these DNA kits which should assist in bringing poachers to book should these rhino be poached and their horns/stumps recovered.
The horns are then stored in a banks safety deposit box.
‘’ So warm…so soft…so alive…. ‘’
For the moment, we feel that our rhino are just a little bit safer from the threat of poaching than they have been for quite some time.
A while ago, in an email correspondence with the iconic Dr Ian Player, I asked him what more I could do to try help save our rhino ?
His words went something like this, ‘’ My girl, all you really can do is take the very best care of your rhino. Do whatever you can to keep them as safe as possible “
I was a bit disappointed at the time, I won’t lie, as I was kind of expecting him to give me a real action plan J But on reflection, over time, I realise he was spot on.
All we really can do is do, is whatever is in our means to do – YOUR JOB starts now – you now need to continue to highlight the plight of our nations rhino starting with sharing our little story …. It is more important than ever to push past ‘rhino fatigue’ and continue to raise awareness around the world.
We hope to personally meet Ayesha later during our stay here in Africa.
For now, please consider her invitation to…
identify reserves like theirs that carry rhino.
Spend time in these reserves – YOUR hard earned monies then go directly to the keepers of rhino, your presence in these reserves effectively makes you a part of their anti-poaching teams as it makes it that much harder for those who are up to no good to go about their dirty business undetected.
There is much at stake. People like Ayesha give much to keep their rhino alive… thank you.
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