A group of American high school students recently attended an EcoTraining EcoQuest programme. One special morning on the programme they woke up at 4:30 to set off into the dry African bushveld in search of an endangered rhino. The students had personally raised funds to enable the dehorning of a rhino to save it from a brutal death by poachers.
The footage taken by EcoTraining of this emotive experience along with the personal accounts of participants on that morning highlighted just how tragic the rhino poaching situation is. Yet it was shown that their combined effort can lead to a significant shift in rhino survival rates.
Participant Martin Green said, “It was a terrific adventure. It is always amazing when you can fit something in that you know you will never get to do again; that magic moment that comes and goes, but remains in your heart and mind for the rest of your life. Darting those rhinos was one of those instances. Thank you.”
And South African Nanette Raath had this to say: “It was a humbling and very sad experience to see these magnificent animals so vulnerable, especially when the chainsaw hits the horn. At the same time, it was rewarding and truly special to be part of something that you know will help save their existence. For me also, it was a big reality check on the power and responsibility that was given to man – and the choice between using it in a good or bad way.”
Lyle Wiggens of the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET) explained what happens after the dehorning process: “The horns are marked, identified, weighed and given a unique code, a specific verification which was conducted by the regional officer for the Limpopo Wildlife Trade and Regulations department, which is a branch of LEDET.”
“We can only hope that this method to save our rhinos will deter poachers from killing an innocent animal,” said the warden. “It is important for dehorned rhinos to also be protected by anti-poaching security measures and efforts. The reality is that dehorned rhinos are still at risk of being poached in the absence of security.”
This is a conservation success story to inspire everyone to continue efforts to check the alarming increase in poaching since 2008. The southern white rhino was poached to as few as 55 in the early 1900s, and yet there are now between 19 thousand and 21 thousand white rhinos alive today. If it was done then, it can be done again.