/ 16 April 2024

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife resorts to dehorning rhinos to limit poaching

Whatsappimage2024 04 16at08.34.28
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has reluctantly decided to dehorn its rhinos after KwaZulu-Natal lost 325 rhinos since 2023, the majority of them to poaching.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has reluctantly decided to dehorn its rhinos after KwaZulu-Natal lost 325 rhinos since 2023, the majority of them to poaching.

“It is with a heavy heart that the organisation has decided to dehorn. Rhino dehorning goes against the grain of what we stand for, but the persistent threat posed by poachers has necessitated more drastic measures to protect our rhinos,” Ezemvelo chief executive Sihle Mkhize said in a joint statement with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 

To address the surge in rhino poaching incidents, Ezemvelo and WWF South Africa initiated a dehorning programme in the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. 

“The province of KZN has played a critical role in rhino conservation in Africa which is why we are committing resources towards supporting the authorities in their efforts to protect rhinos,” WWF South Africa chief executive Morné du Plessis said. 

Dehorning can cost anything from R8 000 an animal, with repeats every 18 to 24 months, but the costs can be proportionally reduced if more animals are dehorned during the same operation.

The dehorning initiative is a pivotal moment in Ezemvelo’s anti-poaching efforts, which have proven successful in other parks such as the Kruger National Park. The Pilanesberg National Park has reported no poaching incidents since 2020 after it decided to dehorn its rhinos. 

Mkhize emphasised that although dehorning is not a solution, it forms part of a comprehensive approach to discouraging poachers targeting horned animals.

Ezemvelo said it remained committed to implementing the recently approved Ezemvelo KZN guardianship strategy for rhinos, which aims to reduce poaching incidents. 

The strategy, endorsed by the KwaZulu Natal Nature Conservation Board, sets ambitious goals “to mitigate poaching, complementing ongoing efforts which include intensification of anti-poaching patrols and surveillance, improvement of boundary fences and ranger living conditions, integrity testing and now dehorning”.

The dehorning of rhino to prevent poaching has been the subject of much debate.

A study by the Namibian ministry of environment and Save the Rhino Trust found that there were no statistically significant differences in key factors of population growth — breeding, birth, survival, life span and death — between dehorned or horned black rhinos. 

But another study conducted over 15 years of rhino sightings in South Africa showed a decline in the frequency and strength of social interactions, especially between bulls.

The conservation group Wildlife ACT has described the process of dehorning a rhino as “like filing a nail”.

During the procedure, the rhino is sedated and the horn is removed using apparatus such as electric or gas dehorners, within a few moments. An antiseptic is then placed on the stump to protect it from infection. The rhino is then given a dose of adrenaline to get it back on its feet.