Rhino Dehorning programme

Dehorning is one of the most successful strategies available to us in preventing rhino poaching.

Dehorning is the process of darting and removing the front and back horns of a rhino. This is to reduce the value and make it less of a target for poachers. It is similar to a person cutting their hair or nails, and the horn regrows after around 18 months and must be redone. It is an expensive process and requires helicopters, vets and an experienced ground crew.

In our region alone it has decreased the chance of poaching by around 96%. Along with boots on the ground – this is the most successful strategy in protecting rhinos on the frontlines.

To many this might seem extreme, but it is one of the few tools that is working. When done by an experienced team, it can take anything from between 13 to 20 minutes from when the dart is in to when the rhino is up and walking again. Animal welfare is always the primary concern and the drug cocktail has amnesiac qualities and the rhinos wake up quickly and show few signs of concern afterwards.

Studies of the effects of dehorning on rhinos are continuous and done in multiple reserves. Thus far there has been no alarming issues recorded over the years since first implemented. Rhinos can still defend themselves and their calves, can forage for food easily, and there has been no noticeable impacts on social behaviour or mortality.

A living rhino can sell for as little as R60 000 while an average front horn alone can fetch as much as R6 000 000 (US$ 4,000.00 versus US$400,000.00). This is simply unsustainable.

We do all work towards the day when we can see all rhinos roaming the landscape with their full set of horns, but until a living rhino is worth more than their horns, then we are going to continue this fight these magnificent creatures are still going to remain vulnerable.