Mass Dehorning in South Africa Protects Rhinos from Poachers

Bernard Dupont

Last week, RRF grantee Wildlife ACT supported a large scale operation by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to dehorn the entire white rhino population of Spioenkop Nature Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Over the course of three days, this joint effort dehorned every white rhino in this protected area, although exact numbers were not released for security purposes.

Dehorning rhinos is not a solution to the rampant poaching that feeds the high demand for rhino horns created by the practice of traditional medicine, but it does help protect rhinos from poachers while conservationists and law enforcement bolster and develop more lasting solutions. With no horns present, there is no reason for wildlife criminals to target and kill rhinos, so dehorning is an effective, temporary safeguard against poaching. It causes no pain to the rhino, and the horns will eventually grow back, just like our own hair or fingernails.

To see an example of what the dehorning process looks like, check out Wildlife ACT's video below:

In addition to dehorning these white rhinos, the capture team notched and tagged several young rhinos who were dehorned for the first time. Notching their ears helps conservationists easily identify specific rhinos and track them in the field, which aids in population management.

To read more about this significant operation carried out by the RRF's grantees and colleagues, click here.