Dinokeng makes strides with poaching of rhinos and other wildlife

A female rhino is tagged as part of an attempt to curb poaching at Dinokeng Game Reserve. Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

A female rhino is tagged as part of an attempt to curb poaching at Dinokeng Game Reserve. Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 15, 2024


The Dinokeng Game Reserve and its anti-poaching unit have thus far been successful in protecting their rhinos and other wildlife from poaching.

However, this comes at a great cost and dedication, as was once again demonstrated this week (Wednesday), when a tag was placed into the horn of a female rhino.

This experience was shared with the media by an "Africa in One Day" experience hosted by Dinokeng Projects (an entity of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development).

The event formed part of the Dinokeng Showcase 2024 meetings, held with all the stakeholders, which included owners of the lodges in the areas, as well as locals involved in the project.

The Dinokeng project has proved to be a success since its start some 20 years ago. Its game reserve boasts the Big Five - a mere 40 minutes’s drive from Pretoria.

But poaching and snarling of animals is a great concern and extra measures have to be put in place to ensure the safety of the wildlife.

One of these measures is to place tracker devices into the horns of the endangered rhinos. These tracking devices, which are also used on other wildlife in the reserved, are replaced every 18 to 24 months.

It serves several purposes, which include that if an animal is caught in a snare, it can be located via the tracking device. The devices are linked to a satellite and the teams at all times know where a particular tagged animal is.

The game reserve is faced with about 1 000 snares a year. In the past about 60 of the game lost their lives due to snares, but this has come down to only 40 last year, due to the relentless efforts of the teams on the ground to keep these animals safe.

In the case of rhino, an important benefit to the device is that if its horns are poached, it can be located.

Wildlife veterinarian Dr Shaun Beverley, who is at the forefront of tagging these animals, explained that if a rhino gets poached and the horns leave the country, the microchip implanted into the horns can be scanned and it can be linked back to the reserve.

Tagging is also important to monitor the health of the wildlife.

Tagging these wildlife is a mammoth task, which not only involves veterinarians and assistants, to game rangers but also a helicopter is used to first track down the particular animal who had to be tagged.

This week was the turn of a female rhino - only named no 30. She had to have the tracking device in her horn replaced.

Beverley explained that in tagging a rhino, he drills into the horn of the animal to make space to implant the device or to replace it. He said that this is a painless procedure, as the animals do not have any feeling in their horns.

He also explained that these animals must be tagged very early in the morning, before the heat of the day, in order to keep them safe and comfortable.

The animals are identified by the different incisions into their ears. A helicopter sets out to find the particular rhino and it is darted.

If Beverley and his team feels that the rhino is not responding well to the darting, the entire exercise is called off. The welfare of the animal comes first.

So, it was with great excitement that a team of journalists accompanied the team on their mission this week.

The helicopter was first sent off to locate No 30 - which seemed to have been done without much effort. After a speedy dash with game viewing vehicles across dusty roads, in an effort not to have No 30 waiting for the media, she was down on the ground by the time we got there.

And she was a big girl.

Measures were in place not to disturb her and to keep her as comfortable as possible. No 30 was masked, so that she could stay calm while Beverley and his team set off to drill at length into her nose.

After some time and precision, the old tags were located and replaced.

No 30 meanwhile snorted and snored loudly, while enduring the drilling to her horn.

After a bit more than an hour, she was ready to go. The huge girl was assisted by a team to get onto her side, before she slowly got to her feet,

No 30 did not seem to have noticed much of her surroundings, as she slowly moved on, unperturbed, with media cameras clicking away in the distance.

For now, she is protected and the monitoring team will at all times know where she is.

Pretoria News

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