‘Don’t dehorn, educate the people’

Should a decision be taken to dehorn rhinos it would send a negative message to the rest of the world that South Africa is losing the battle against poaching, Dr Johan Joubert of the Shamwari Group told the annual Absa Wildlife Conference.

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A large number of delegates and interested parties attended the conference held recently outside Port Elizabeth. “I am completely against dehorning because a dehorned rhino is no longer a rhino. Apart from that, these rhinos are still killed for the short stump that remains.

“If we do not physically protect the rhinos of this country by getting scouts on the ground to gather intelligence, create an improved awareness of the problem, and get the necessary equipment and funding; before long there won’t be any of these animals left,” said Joubert, emphasising that the smugglers are keeping the poaching industry alive.

“The syndicates must be addressed, but I believe that the middle level of the chain, the smugglers, are the important culprits here; those doing the killing are, however, also playing a large role,” he said. Dr Mike White of SANParks said that 93% (about 18 000) of Africa’s rhino are in South Africa, but that on average 1,2 rhino is lost every day.

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“The Far East should be part of the solution; we must engage with these people and educate them to understand what really happens here on the ground.” He said all options that can be taken should be explored, but anything done should benefit the conservation of the rhino. Matthew Norval of the Wilderness Foundation said the poaching was driven by criminal elements, but one must guard against demonising the Asian community in the fight against poaching.