Also present was
Stefan Terblanche, former Springbok rugby player and CEO of the Rugby
Legends, who has added his voice to the anti-poaching chorus: “We must do all
we can to reduce rhino poaching and I’m proud that we can help save the animal
for future generations. It’s far better to have a dehorned rhino that is alive
and that we can still enjoy seeing in our reserves,” he said.
The dehorning took place at the beautiful 700ha Gwahumbe
Game & Spa in Mid-Illovo, KwaZulu-Natal, the latest private reserve to join
the ranks of others which have dehorned their rhinos. Its partnership with
Husqvarna and vet Ryan van Deventer will, hopefully, ensure the survival of the
lodge’s last remaining male rhino, eight-year-old Vuyo – and finally allow the
expansion of its herd.
Previously, said Gwahumbe Game & Spa director Shanon
MacKenzie, “We were too anxious about Vuyo’s safety to allow him to be
photographed, and we postponed adding to the herd because of the risk of
poachers wanting their horns. We are extremely fond of him: he came here when
he was just three. The decision to dehorn him was made with his survival and
safety very much at the forefront of our minds.”
The devastating decline in the rhino population – and the
poachers’ savagery– is just one of the issues on the agenda for this year’s
CITES COP17 Conference* (24 September-5 October in Johannesburg). Sadly, the
battle for the animal’s survival has been a losing one, until recently.
A local rhino-dehorning campaign, using Husqvarna outdoor
power products, is proving highly successful in the bid to save these beautiful
animals from poachers. In KwaZulu-Natal, particularly, the practice is gaining
momentum, with increasing numbers of private game reserves voting for this
The process was first used to help reduce poaching
pressure in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. When rhinos are dehorned professionally, the
horn is taken above the growth layer of the skin. Rhino horn is like a fingernail:
you can cut it or trim it without stopping continued growth. But poachers
brutally uproot the entire horn from its base under the skin in the bone.
Van Deventer started working on the dehorning project a
year ago in various KwaZulu-Natal areas, including, more recently, at the
popular Gwahumbe Game & Spa.
“Before dehorning, many rhino owners used ankle bracelets
and horn transmitters for monitoring purposes,” he said. “Although some of them are still resistant to
dehorning, as the poaching problem escalates more and more reserves are
realising they need to minimise the risk to the animals. It’s not a total solution to the problem but
merely part of a holistic plan to try to prevent poaching.”
The Husqvarna Group, a global frontrunner in the manufacture
of forest, agricultural and garden power products, has provided Van Deventer
with a battery chainsaw and a petrol one – the petrol saw for the initial
cutting, and the battery saw for the finer trimming.
Some vets who work with rhinos are also relying on
Husqvarna’s battery blowers to keep the rhino cool during the dehorning
process. Battery products are fuel free so produce no harmful emissions. They
are also quieter than their petrol equivalents and lower noise levels mean less
anxiety for the sedated animal.
“The Husqvarna chainsaw is quicker than an oscillating
saw,” said Van Deventer. “Once the animal is immobilised and stable, the
procedure takes about 20-30 minutes.” He
said the Husqvarna blower played a vital role in keeping the rhino’s core body
temperature down, which was particularly important during the procedure,
especially in the hotter seasons. “There is always a risk with anaesthesia, and
added to this is that white rhinos are particularly sensitive to the opioids.
So we want to perform the dehorning as efficiently and quickly as possible.”
He said the recommended method to reduce poaching risk
was to remove the horn as low to the base as possible, in addition to removing
the side walls of the horn. “This just
leaves a small rounded bump of horn, reducing the poaching risk to the animal.”
Horns do grow back with time, but the rate depends on
nutrition. “Animals receiving a lot of
supplementary feeding have faster horn growth, so dehorning every 15-24 months
is a good guide. But saying that, it’s
not good enough to merely dehorn and expect there to be no poaching threat: you
must ensure other checks are also in place.”
In Vuyo’s case, ONLY battery-operated professional
Husqvarna products were used, which are much quieter and thus less stressful
for the animal.
Husqvarna South Africa’s marketing manager Jacqui Cochran
said: “We are extremely committed to this project, and thrilled that our
diverse range of equipment is being used for a cause as worthwhile as saving
For more information about Husqvarna, visit
www.husqvarna.co.za and www.gwahumbe.co.za
At the beginning of the 20th century, 500,000 rhinos
wandered across Africa and Asia. This dropped to 70,000 by 1970 and today, in
the wilds, only about 29,000 rhinos remain.
Since 2008, poachers have killed at least 5 940 African
rhinos, and poaching is at crisis point. By the end of last year, the number of
African rhinos killed by poachers had increased for the sixth year in a row,
with at least 1,338 of them killed by poachers across Africa. One horn can sell
for up to R150 000 locally, but fetch as much as R5 million in the East, where
it is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine for treating various
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement
between governments. Its aim is to ensure international trade in specimens of
wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.