PICS: Dozens of rhino at 3 SA parks dehorned to prevent lockdown poaching surge
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Pilanesberg - Dozens of rhinos in three popular game parks have been dehorned to prevent armed poachers taking advantage of the
post-Covid-19 crash in tourism to kill them for their horns.
The exercise in Pilanesburg National Park and the Mafikeng
and Botsalano game reserves - all northwest of Johannesburg -
leaves the rhinos with horn rumps too small for poachers to
bother with, Nico Jacobs, helicopter pilot and founding member
of non-profit Rhino 911 told Reuters.
As Jacobs flew a helicopter over Pilanesburg last month with
Reuters journalists, they spotted a lioness eating the carcass
of a rhino that had been poached days earlier. Experts fear the
absence of tourists may already have spurred a poaching spike.
They proceeded to a spot where they tranquilised a female
rhino before removing her horn with an electric saw. One of her
calves had to be restrained.
Working with authorities, they began dehorning three years
ago. Jacobs said they had since seen a drop in poaching. The
numbers of rhinos in the parks, and how many have been poached,
are kept secret to protect them.
"I've seen so many slaughtered, butchered rhinos. What is
the solution?" he said. "For them (poachers) to come when
there's lions, elephants ... It's too much risk for that little
piece," he said.
A helicopter flies over as workers approach a tranquillised rhino before dehorning it in an effort to deter poaching, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in North West. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
As the world marks World Environment Day on Friday, the
threat from humans to other species' survival -- and ultimately
our own -- is a growing concern to conservationists.
A veterinarian attends to a tranquillised rhino before it is dehorned in an effort to deter poaching, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in North West. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
On Monday, scientists published a study showing that humans
are causing mass extinction on a scale unseen since a meteor
wiped out the land dinosaurs 65 million years ago, the sixth
large-scale extinction in Earth's history.
A ranger puts his hand on a tranquillised rhino before it is dehorned in an effort to deter poaching, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in North West. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Rhinos have been around for 30 million years, but decades of
hunting and habitat loss have reduced their numbers to about
27,000 today, according to the International Rhino Foundation. A
poaching surge has wiped out thousands in the past three years.
"In order to ... give the population a chance to grow again,
we need to relieve the pressure on them ... (by) dehorning,"
Pieter Nel, acting head of conservation of the North West Parks
Workers dehorn a tranquillised rhino at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Rhino horn sells for $60,000 a kilogram, more than cocaine
or gold. In East Asia, it is used in medicinal potions, despite
containing the same key component as human fingernails.
Workers dehorn a tranquillised rhino in an effort to deter poaching at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Dehorning is controversial, especially as it makes male
rhinos vulnerable in fights. But they are not essential for
survival, and, like fingernails, they grow back.
A rhino that has been dehorned in an effort to deter poaching lies on the ground, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in North West Province. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters