De-horning our rhino

Tshukudu Game Lodge
22nd January 2019

A rhino without a horn might not look like the prehistoric megafauna that has roamed this earth for millennia, but in today's reality, this sort of rhino is a safe rhino. Most people are aware of the poaching epidemic decimating rhino populations around the world, but for those who don't, we hope this post is valuable as a demonstration of the lengths many reserves, land owners, park managers, and conservation leaders are going to to protect the precious rhino from being poached.

On Tshukudu Game Reserve this week, we made the decision to dehorn our rhino due to recent poaching threats received. Tragically, rhinos have been poached in the neighbouring Greater Kruger Park Reserves even though there are anti-poaching teams on the ground fighting long, hard battles to prevent this from happening. Poachers have been arrested, and rhinos have also been protected, but the fact of the matter is that this battle is great, and in many cases, it is not a battle that is won. Still, we work hard and vigilantly to ensure the rhinos we have in our custody are as safe and wild as possible. Right now, that means having their iconic weapons of defence sawn off and leaving them somewhat lighter than before.

We called upon the best, Dr Peter Rogers of Provet Wildlife Services in Hoedspruit, Janelle Goodrich, and Lyle Wiggins from Nature Conservation, to perform and assist in the dehorning procedures. This process is carried out with exceptional care as it involves sedating the rhino and removing the horn with a chainsaw before treating the stump and waking the rhino up again. While the removal of the horn is not painful - the horn matter is pure keratin - the process is undoubtedly stressful on the wild animal, but it is by far the lesser evil when it comes to what could happen at the hands of poachers.

The rhinos were monitored throughout the dehorning process which brought the team out over a few consecutive days, and many hands were on deck to ensure a smooth process took place. The Sussens children were invited to come and have a look, which is a sure advantage of growing up in the bush! An eye-opening and educational experience for all, and certainly something to stir up emotions.

The rhino's ears and eyes are protected to help soothe it while Dr Rogers performs the final touches.

The Sussens children enjoying a very special experience.

Applying the blue antiseptic.

After administering the reversal, we wait for her to wake up.

The reversal drug kicks in and she gets to her feet.

And off she goes...

Our rhinos have now all been given the dehorning treatment and are being watched vigilantly by guards on the reserve. These events are fully charged with feelings of sorrow and a ferocious protection we feel towards these giant herbivores that we can neither speak to nor understand. They have no idea that they are some of the most persecuted animals on the planet and that their only armour is so ruthlessly sought after. Sending this female rhino off minus her horn leaves us feeling a combination of heartache and hope that this is the now the better reality for rhinos alive in the world today. 

Our greatest thanks go out to Dr Rogers and the excellent team we had at work on the reserve, and to those who are working to protect rhinos everywhere, at huge risk to themselves.