LAST month, poachers slaughtered a pregnant female rhino at the Askari Game Lodge in the Plumari Game Reserve in Magaliesburg. The cow was shot with a heavy calibre rifle and butchered with a panga for her horns while she was still alive.
A veterinary autopsy confirmed that the 28-year-old female would have given birth in the next two to three months. She had successfully raised three other calves in this previously tranquil setting where the owners are proactive in the anti-rhino poaching drive.
A subsequent attack occurred on the reserve on Saturday 19 October, when poachers killed another pregnant female for her horn.
In order to curb further attacks on the reserve’s rhinos, the owners have taken the decision to infuse all the rhinos’ horns with indelible dye and a toxic compound to deter poachers, as the perceived market value of the horns for traditional medicine and ornamental use will be diminished due to the procedure. The dye has a strong odour which does not disappear when the rhino horn is grinded to powder form. It is therefore easily detected by sniffer dogs and is also identified by airport X-ray machines.
“We have sought the best professional, legal and medical advice from the Rhino Rescue Project, which offers proactive measures for poaching prevention and has a team of veterinary professionals to carry out the treatment in our reserve,” comments distraught Graham Shipway, general manager of the Askari Game Lodge. “A highly visible billboard and poster campaign around the perimeter of the reserve will inform poachers that our rhino crash has undergone this treatment.”
The ‘toxification’ process involves tranquilising a rhino, drilling a hole in its horn then injecting the dye and ectoparasiticides, that are non-harmful to the environment and other living organisms, thereby contaminating the horn.
After the procedure, the Plumari Game Reserve management will closely monitor the rhinos due to the risk normally associated with the immobilisation of large animals.
Askari Game Lodge & Spa forms part of the Guvon Hotels portfolio.