iSimangaliso takes bold steps to safeguard rhinos

As a proactive step to deter poachers from targeting rhino in the World Heritage Site, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) recently implemented a rhino de-horning programme throughout the Western Shores section of the park. This is reflective of the park’s commitment to put rhinos and their safety first.

According to the park’s CEO, Andrew Zaloumis, “the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, like other conservation areas in northern KwaZulu-Natal and Kruger National Park, has experienced an unprecedented surge in rhino poaching over the last 24 months – often with simultaneous multiple poaching incidents. As a considered response, and after in-depth discussion, reflection and specialist consultation, the iSimangaliso Authority, together with our conservation partners EKZNW, is instigating additional strategies and interventions to bolster rhino security in sections of the park where they are most under threat and vulnerable to rhino poachers.”

Under special TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) permits from the Department of Environmental Affairs, the de-horning of black and white rhino in the Western Shores section of iSimangaliso has been completed this week. This 30,000ha section of the 220km long park includes incorporated private forestry lands owned by Siyaqhubeka (Mondi).


The operation to de-horn the animals was conducted by EKZNW vet, Dr Dave Cooper, in collaboration with Dr Mike Kock and his team from the University of Pretoria – Faculty of Veterinary Science (Onderstepoort). The horn material has been removed, thereby rendering the rhino “valueless” to poachers. Dr Mike Knight, the Chairman of the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group, as well as SADC Rhino Management Group, agrees that the method “remains a management option in high risk smaller populations.”

The procedure, which can be likened to cutting a toenail without damaging the “quick”, takes approximately 20 minutes and is completely painless. Research has shown that, provided the entire population is targeted, there are no social side effects that may affect the rhino in the short or long-term.

Dr Kock sawing off the rhino horn

Dr Kock sawing off the rhino horn

Dr Cooper (EKZNW) watches Dr Kock

Dr Cooper (EKZNW) watches Dr Kock

Tony Conway, EKZNW iSimangaliso Park Conservation Manager and Chairman of the KZN Rhino Management Group, says: “With the de-horning work complete, and the Western Shores “horn-free”, the rhino are now less vulnerable to poaching, able to roam freely and breed without being targeted for their horn.”

De-horning was used extensively in Namibia and Zimbabwe during the 1990s and more recently in small populations in South Africa, especially in the private sector and also in other SADC countries and East Africa. Namibia has again commenced with an extensive de-horning operation. Coupled with significant increases in funding and anti-poaching efforts for rhino protection, de-horning is believed to have contributed significantly to reducing losses to poaching in many parts of Africa. It was for this reason, in light of the increased threat to rhino in KZN (over 250 rhino killed by poachers in the last two and a half years in KwaZulu-Natal), that iSimangaliso has actioned this initiative.

Educational information is being made available to visitors and local tour and accommodation operators, as well as ongoing workshops with neighbouring communities. Zaloumis says that “the support of conservation-minded local communities has led to significant victories in the struggle against rhino poaching around the park. iSimangaliso and EKZNW will continue to consider all developing strategies that work towards the stopping of this onslaught against defenceless animals and South Africa’s natural heritage. Removing the Western Shores rhinos’ horns has now given them a better chance of survival.






iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999 in recognition of its superlative natural beauty and unique global values. The 332 000 hectare park contains of three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700 year old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, 526 bird species and 25 000 year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world. The name iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this unique place.

  • Albina Hume

    Well done!
    Trimming horn procedure should be done to all rhinos in Africa.
    Next step is to legalize the trade in horn, a renewable product, to help create harmony between African people and their natural heritage.
    As a result rhinos would stay alive and will help save Africa from poverty.
    Change the law- Change the future!

    • Doug Turvey

      De-horning does not always work. Poachers still track and kill them as there is still 1/3rd of the horn beneath the surface which is worth a fortune on the ridiculous black market. Furthermore, poachers take out the de-horned rhinos to prevent them spending days tracking them again and finding that they have less of a horn.
      The debate goes on as to whether to legalise the trade or not. The problem is that CITES needs a 2/3rds majority in order to do so. Firstly, we do not know how the demand will spike if it is legalized and the price of horn comes down. Secondly, one of CITES principals is to promote Economic and Social development. Promoting a complete scam, ie that rhino horn is used for impotence, cancer cures or hangovers, is definitely not in line with their principals.

  • michael chait

    Well said Albina, i told them years ago to do this and it fell on deaf ears.

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