With our rhino populations across the world being threatened by poaching for the use of their horns for bogus medicinal purposes and ornamental use, the Rhino Rescue Project has come up with a possible solution that could potentially bring rhino poaching down to dramatically in the reserves that choose to treat their rhino’s horns with a compound made up of depot ectoparasiticides.
A few days ago we took part in yet another one of our rhinos having its horn treated to hopefully deter poachers from entering our reserve to seek out rhino horns. The first thing that needed to be done was to find a suitable candidate, which was done from a helicopter and once chosen the rhino was then darted and the recovery team moved in to start the treatment. Guides and some guests also came in to assist and view how the treatment was done. The beautiful female was down and asleep within 5 minutes after the anaesthetic was administered and her eyes were covered and ears blocked so as to keep stress to a minimum. She had been placed on her side and the work began. The vets started to drill into the horn so as to get a valve in place that would pump the depot ectoparasiticide into the horn.
During this procedure the rhino and the horn are implanted with 3 identification chips so that if it is darted again she would be able to be identified and the time frame noted to see if it would be viable to retreat her or not. The treatment is fully grown out of the horn after several years, and after this period she would again need to be treated. The treatment is completely harmless to the rhino or any other creature out here and only ectoparasiticides that are oxpecker and vulture friendly are used in the horn infusion.
Once both valves had been hooked up to the horns they used a patented high-pressure system to pump the depot ectoparasiticides into the horn. We had been there for just under 20 minutes and then had to assist with rolling the beautiful female onto her other side to assist her breathing. DNA samples were taken, micro-chips inserted and all measurements and identifying features noted.
This treatment also dyes the horn a red colour, which would indicate to the end user and poachers that it is useless. The dye also shows up under UV and x-ray making it more difficult to transport through airports, which will also start to curb the illegal export of rhino horn. After the treatment the horn was filled with putty and taped closed. The tape would only be there for about 2 days allowing the putty to set.
Within half an hour the vet was ready to administer the antidote and everyone was ushered back to their vehicles. Within minutes the female was back onto her feet and looking a little disoriented but managed to move off into the bush to live another beautiful day. What an experience it was!!
BY: RICHARD DE GOUVEIA (LITTLE BUSH CAMP RANGER)