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Rhino dehorning - a mix of emotions in unprescribed doses!

A rhino is darted from a helicopter

It is safe to assume that there is no one on earth that would choose to see a dehorned rhino, rather than a horned rhino whilst on safari. It is not an assumption, however, that safari guests would rather see a dehorned rhino than no rhino at all, which is why this necessary step has been taken on the Rietspruit Game Reserve.

Although not the silver bullet in preventing rhino poaching, dehorning in conjunction with other protection methods, has proved to be a useful tool in the anti-poaching artillery.

There have been no adverse behavioural effects noticed in rhino that have been dehorned, and horns do grow back over time, requiring dehorning to take place every 18 to 24 months to remain effective as an anti-poaching tool. On a positive note, dehorning has shown to reduce the number of fighting-related mortalities in dehorned rhino populations.

Whilst it may seem like a brutal process, dehorning is not a painful experience, nor does it cause any harm at all to the rhino. It is always carried out by professional veterinary and conservation teams.

Using both a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter, once a rhino is spotted from the air it will be darted with an anaesthetic, which can take a few minutes to take effect. A ground team will swiftly locate the rhino and prepare it for the dehorning. The rhino’s ears and eyes are covered to reduce the noise and damage from the chainsaw, which is used to saw off the horn, making sure not to disturb the sensitive areas at the base.

Sentiments regarding rhino welfare have never run higher and experiencing a rhino dehorning will cause a confusing mix of emotions; from distressing pity to embarrassing sorrow, that we humans have caused a rhino to go through this, switching to raging anger at the perpetrators of this heinous crime, and finally immense relief that these defenceless animals are instantly less attractive to a poacher.It is an extremely emotional experience, which Khaya Ndlovu guests can witness for a small fee, the proceeds of which go toward the veterinary costs of dehorning. “It’s a whirlwind of emotions,” said Kathi, unable to suppress her tears at the last dehorning! “It was an incredible experience that I feel very privileged to have witnessed, and I wish to thank the Reserve owners and Rhino Revolution who help fund the experience for the safety of these living legends that are in the fast lane to extinction.

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