THE VALUE OF RHINO CONSERVATION

Most people know that rhino poaching has become a threat of almost international proportions. South Africa is very much at the forefront of the fight against poaching as it is home to 80% of the world’s rhino population. Sadly, since 2013 an average of 1000 rhino have been killed annually due to poaching and in 2018, there were 769 rhino reported killed due to poaching. The total number of rhino killed as a result of poaching has declined, however poaching still remains a huge threat.

Rhino have long been desired for their horn and have been slaughtered throughout the continent. Not only is the protection of the rhino vital for the preservation of indigenous eco-systems here, it is also important because it attracts tourism. Wildlife tourism in South Africa makes a significant contribution to our GDP in 2017- more than agriculture, farming and forestry- equating to R130 billion.

Although 769 rhino were slaughtered last year, 2018 was the first year in the last 5 years where the number of poaching deaths was less than a thousand. This is indeed positive but the sad truth still remains- out of all African countries South Africa is most affected by the poaching of rhino, and more rhino are killed than are being born. One day the legendary Big 5 may very well become the Big 4.

Two orphaned rhino were successfully released into the wild through the efforts of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. Named Gertjie and Matimba, these two are not siblings but rather 2 rescued rhino who were hand-reared through the trust. Both of them came to HESC in 2014; Gertjie arrived at 3 months old and Matimba shortly after when he was only a month old. It is interesting to know that there is no real precedent when it comes to the best time to release a rhino back into the wild, however part of preparing to do so means that human interaction has to virtually cease. Most of the time, before the calves are released, the HESC consults with the veterinarian before coming to a final decision. The rhino have to be large enough to look after themselves, and also display behaviours that indicate they will be able to survive in the wild as well.

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