Located in South Africa’s remote Great Karoo region, the 14,000-hectare game reserve, Mount Camdeboo, offers a natural habitat where wildlife, including rhinos roam freely. Sadly, these formidable African creatures are not always free from poachers.
Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve managed by Newmark Hotels recently embarked on dehorning its rhinos. Built on the pillars of conservation to fiercely protect its wildlife and surrounding ecosystem, reserve owner, Iain Buchanan noted: “Rhino poaching is one of the most pressing conservation issues we’re facing. Dehorning is a sad intervention but poaching is a reality, and, we need to make every effort as part of a multi-faceted wildlife management approach to save the much-loved and iconic rhino.”
Any rhino killed due to poaching has far-reaching consequences. It often results in the loss of an unborn foetus, a dependent calf, as well as having a direct impact on their social structure and breeding. The result is a weakening of their natural genetic refinement, thereby endangering this species even further.
The selective dehorning of the rhinos entailed a highly specialised operation lead by veterinarian, Dr William Fowlds. After the successful dehorning operation, he comments, “The rhinos at Mount Camdeboo have been hit hard by poachers in 2014/2015 and it made them very vulnerable to further attacks. Despite the reserve’s remote location, poachers are still placing these animals under severe threat. Whilst its heartbreaking for us to remove the horns, knowing the full consequences, it does deter and disincentivise the poachers from wanting to take their lives and helps with our broader conservation practices.
During the dehorning procedure, every effort was taken to ensure minimal distress and discomfort to the rhinos, who were, while immobilised, also tagged with new tracking devices to monitor them. DNA and blood samples were also taken to assist us with our research. As a team, together with the reserve owners and employees, we’ve shared the pain and loss of poaching incidents – it’s a life-changing conservation disaster that we don’t want to feel again.”
Peter Chadwick, Mount Camdeboo’s Conservation Reserve Manager, facilitated and oversaw the successful dehorning operation and reiterated the emotive sentiment felt by everyone who was part of this intervention. “I have mixed feelings – while the dehorning reduces the poaching pressure on the rhinos and gives us time to set-up longer-term anti-poaching initiatives, I think it’s a conservation tragedy, in that it necessitates these steps to protect these innocent animals. The rhino epitomizes Africa; it’s part of our soul. If we lose the rhino, we lose a part of ourselves.”
Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve is committed to keeping its rhino protected and the dehorning is an essential part of the holistic approach to anti-poaching and rhino management.
The reserve’s employees – some of who also participated in the dehorning operation – have also felt the disruptive effect of poaching. “Being part of this dehorning experience was a monumental moment in our lives – we are doing something to protect nature. It was amazing for us to witness, first hand, that there are people like the vet, his team and the veterinary students, who care about saving our rhinos. We need to protect the rhino, because if we don’t, who will?”