South African dehorning initiative aims for ‘zero poached’ white rhinos

The team works quickly. As soon as a rhino is safely sedated, they motor up a chainsaw and begin shearing off the animal’s signature horns. White flakes of keratin fly through the air like snow, littering the ground. When they power the chainsaw off, only stubs are left where the rhino’s horns used to be. “It is a traumatic experience for us — not for the rhino,” Mark Gerrard, managing director of Wildlife ACT, a nonprofit organization that works to protect wildlife, told Mongabay in an interview. “It has a face mask put on it to cover its vision, it has earplugs put into its ears … so that reduces trauma to the animal. We’ve got to remind ourselves that this [a rhino’s horn] is just keratin — this is really just fingernails.” Last week, individuals from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, a South African governmental organization, worked alongside Wildlife ACT to dehorn the entire white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) population in Spioenkop Nature Reserve in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. This effort aims to deter poachers from killing these rhinos for their horns, an all-too-common fate for this near-threatened species. Preparations begin to dehorn a sedated rhino at Spioenkop Nature Reserve. Image by Casey Pratt / Love Africa. Gerrard says he can’t reveal the exact number of white rhinos in KwaZulu-Natal for security reasons. Still, he says there are a “significant” number of them in the area — and that poachers have targeted them in the past. “By dehorning the animals, you’re reducing…This article was originally published on Mongabay

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