Visitors to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park will encounter something unusual from this week: rhinos without horns.
The park has taken what it called the “bold step” of dehorning its rhinos as a response to an increase in poaching.
More than 250 rhinos have been poached in KwaZulu-Natal in the past two-and-a-half years.
The decision, said iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis, was not an easy one.
“Like other conservation areas in northern KwaZulu-Natal and the Kruger National Park, we have experienced an unprecedented surge in rhino poaching during the past 24 months,” Zaloumis said.
“In response to this, and after in-depth discussion, iSimangaliso is putting in place bold strategies and interventions to bolster rhino security.”
Dehorning rhino is one of the steps being takenL.
Rhinos were dehorned in the 30000ha Western Shores section of the park, which has been given World Heritage Site status.
The rhinos have now been “rendered valueless” to poachers .
Twenty rhinos will have had their horns removed by the end of the week.
The process, described as being like “clipping a toenail”, takes about 20 minutes. It has no long- or short-term effects on the rhinos, provided the entire population is dehorned, according to the park.
Zaloumis said information would be made available to ensure that visitors to the park understood why the horns had been removed.
“Removing the Western Shores rhinos’ horns has now given them a better chance of survival,” he said.
The rhinos in this section of the park will be the only ones to have their horns removed. They are regarded as “the most under threat and vulnerable to poachers”.