In 2012 already 137 rhinos are poached for their horns! This is making me very sad and frustrated. This crisis is going on and on. Check out the article Rhino Wars in National Geographic this month to read more about this horrible poaching.
An honour to appear in a picture, but of course very sad about the need to de-horn this rhino. We all love rhinos much more with their horns! Unfortunately this poaching crisis forces humanity to re-think what conservation is about. To me it's very important that the de-horning procedure is not invasive and reversibel: within 3-4 years the complete horn has grown back. Each period a new decision can be made. I would never amputate or make an irreversibel change into a healthy wild animal. That's completely against my idea of wildlife medicine. To help rhinos to survive with a minimal invasive action is the best we can do for them now and hopefully in a decade most rhinos will be able to live with their horns again. If I was a rhino, I would prefer to go to the 'horn-cutter' every 2 years, this period of time to be safer and alive!
We leave a long enough stump to make sure that we don't damage the germinal layer or hit any life tissue. We only cut in dead material. Therefore we can be sure that the rhino does not feel anything. It's the most similar to clipping the hoofs of a horse. With our experienced team it takes around 16 minutes from the time the dart hit the animal to fully awake. We keep the procedure as short as possible. After I administer a full antidote in the bloodvessel, the rhino is 100% awake within a few minutes. Most of the times white rhinos start grazing immediately after waking up. They look happy to me and luckily they don't look into the mirror. Wild rhinos regularly loose their horns, so it's not completely unnatural for them to live without a horn. If you have ever worked with rhinos, you will understand the power of these magnificent animals. A serious attack with 'just a stump' will kill you, a lion or other predator, so calves are still safe next to their mothers.