Thursday, June 14, 2012

April 23, 2012: Rhino Darting

Hi All,
I'm going to fast forward to recent events and fill in the gaps as internet access allows. After our cultural and wildlife safari in Botswana we volunteered on the Tuli Conservation project in eastern Botswana for 2 weeks (I'll sent more details later). We left the Tuli project 2 weeks early to join a Rhino and Buffalo darting project back in South Africa. As some of you may know rhino poaching is on the rise. The demand for rhino horn in Vietnam for traditional medicine and more recently as a perceived cure for cancer is driving the demand. There have been 171 rhinos poached in South Africa so far this year. 103 of these rhinos have been poached from Kruger National Park. As security in the the park is tightened, poachers will move to private game reserves. Reserve owners may not have the resources to protect their rhinos. Here's where we come in. The money we pay to join the project will help to pay for darting rhinos and putting collars on them. This way reserve mangers can keep track of them as well as the volunteers who can now track them on a daily basis.
Last Friday we joined a team to dart a Rhino and a Buffalo. Our job was to track the rhino and radio the location to the helicopter pilot on standby. We didn't actually see the rhino but found her tracks so knew she was in the area (photo 1).

We didn't see the actual darting as it is done from a helicopter by a vet (photo 2).

The drugs used to dart a rhino are very powerful and can only be administered by a vet. Once darted the pilot radios the ground crew (us) and we move in to affix a collar (photo 3).

I got to hold the rhino's leg so she wouldn't kick Anthony who was putting the collar around her ankle (photo 4).

I felt her leathery hide and she was quite warm.. Water is poured over her to keep her cool. Luckily it was cloudy. She was a beautiful rhino and may be pregnant. After the darting I was overcome with emotions. What a privilege to be so close to such an amazing animal. It breaks my heart that her species may not survive on this planet because of the greed of humans. I hope I've helped in a small way to help protect her kind.

Now to collar a buffalo. This time we waited for the helicopter pilot to find the buffalo, dart her and call us in to put the collar around her neck (photo 5).

Mission accomplished. Yesterday we went to track the collared rhinos. We received signals from their collars but did not get sightings. I did spot a magnificent bull (photo 6).

We watched him until the sun set. I hope generations to come will get to experience a wild Rhino on the African plain.

That's it for now. Hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc

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