SA and Indonesian rhino conservationists joining hands

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South African and Indonesian rhino conservationists who are part of a two-week tour of South Africa. PHOTO: NOMAQHAWE MTEBELE

South African and Indonesian rhino conservationists have started a two-week tour of South Africa to better understand rhino management. The tour takes place in the backdrop of the rhino poaching that has affected both countries.

In South Africa rhino farmers find themselves in quite a predicament as the illegal sales of rhino horn has led to a decline in legal trade. This has made it less than profitable for farmers who own about 7500 rhinos collectively.

Dr Francois Deacon of the Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences at the University of the Free State expressed that large-scale studies have been done by the institution to improve the profitable conservation of the animal.

“In the new steps that we are taking we no longer talk about dehorning but about horn trimming just like dead skin. It grows back and becomes a sustainable resource without killing the animal. So we have to think differently about protecting our rhinos,” he said.

On the other hand, the Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia has had no poaching incidences over the past 19 years. “We are learning a lot from the Indonesians, especially how their communities take responsibility of the livelihood for themselves and the animals. The work that they have done with community members is great because they have shifted their views in such a way that they lose no rhinos through poaching,” said Dr Deacon.

The two delegate groups will take time to learn from one another as Indonesians manage rhinos in small areas very well and have good control of their population around parks. While South Africans take ownership of their rhinos and have over the past 30 years developed the ‘expertise’ to catch and translocate rhinos. – Nomaqhawe Mtebele nomaqhawe@mahareng.co.za