iSimangaliso takes bold steps to safeguard rhino

Fri Aug 28, 2015 7:18 am

Rdm News Wire | 26 August, 2015 16:29

As a pro-active step to deter poachers from targeting rhino in the World Heritage Site‚ the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) recently implemented a rhino dehorning programme throughout the western shores section of the park.

According to park 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 effort during the last 24 months - often with simultaneous multiple poaching incursions.

More than 250 rhino have been killed by poachers in the last two and a half years in the province.

Under special threatened or protected species permits from the Department of Environmental Affairs‚ the dehorning of black and white rhino in the western shores section of iSimangaliso was completed this week.

The horn material had been removed thereby rendering the rhino “valueless” to poachers.

Dr Mike Knight‚ the chairman of the International Union for Conservation of Nature African Rhino Specialist Group‚ as well as the Southern African Development Community (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 which may affect the rhino in the short or long term.

Tony Conway‚ EKZNW iSimangaliso Park Conservation manager and chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Rhino Management Group said‚ “With the dehorning 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.”

Dehorning 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.

Coupled with significant increases in funding and anti-poaching effort for rhino protection‚ dehorning 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 KwaZulu-Natal where more than 250 rhino have been killed by poachers in the last two and a half years‚ that iSimangaliso launched the dehorning initiative.

Educational information was also made available to visitors and local tour and accommodation operators‚ as well as ongoing workshops with neighbouring communities.

“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‚” Zaloumis said.