Dehorning, by physically cutting off the horns of the rhino, is increasingly being used by conservationists as one of a suite of mechanisms to reduce the devastating impact of poaching.
Despite tremendous efforts by both state and private landowners to protect their rhinos, poachers have still been entering the reserves to kill or maim the rhino for their horns. In addition to having dedicated rangers and anti-poaching units to protect the rhino more and more private reserves and some state reserves have begun dehorning their rhino. Experienced veterinarians that are supported by an aerial and ground crew carefully and efficiently carry out the dehorning process. Together with the dehorning, micochipping and DNA sampling is carried out and the horns are then removed from the protected area to a place of safekeeping. This process is carried out in accordance to legislative requirements. Although dehorning the rhino has not been an easy decision for conservationists to make, it has been found to be an effective mechanism in curbing poaching and the horns do grow back in time.
1 of 12: A helicopter carefully guides a recently darted rhino towards an open area where the ground teams can quickly and easily gain access to ensure the rhinos safety.
2 of 12: Dr Mike Toft approaches a mother and calf White Rhino that have both been darted for immobilization.
3 of 12: A large cloth is tied around the head of the darted rhino in order to protect its eyes from dust and light. The ears are also protected with cloth bungs.
4 of 12: Prior to proceeding with the dehorning, the rhino’s health and state of immobilization is carefully checked.
5 of 12: Once fully immobilized, both horns of the rhino are removed with the aid of a chainsaw.
6 of 12: After both horns have been removed, the remaining stumps are further carefully ground down to reduce the amount of remaining horn.
7 of 12: To prevent any infection, the horn stumps are sprayed with a purple disinfectant. The color of the disinfectant quickly fades after a day or two.
8 of 12: Each horn that is removed is carefully weighed, measured and cataloged and a microchip is placed into it for future identification.
9 of 12: Blood samples are collected for DNA purposes.
10 of 12: All shavings and horn chips are gathered up and samples are collected for DNA purposes.
11 of 12: A White Rhino lies immobilized with both its horns removed and with its eyes carefully covered and its ears protected.
12 of 12: A White Rhino awakens after both horns have been successfully removed.
Special thanks must be given to the team from Phinda Private Game Reserve for allowing me to join them on the dehorning excercise.
Visit African Conservation Photography for a full gallery of Rhino Dehorning Images.