Wild-Eye Conservation Part 3 – The Rhino
While preparing this blog over the last few weeks, the new year dawned with the horror fact that an estimate 668 Rhino have been senselessly slaughtered in South Africa over the 12 month period of 2012.
That is about 13 majestic animals a week with countless animals left to suffer horrific deaths…
Madikwe is also facing increased poaching. The important part of the weekend was save for the Rhino’s.With the aid of awesome vets and Carlien with her staff, we planned to find suitable candidates to be tagged, notched and micro chipped.
We started very early and with the arrival of the helicopter from which the darting and management would take place, we held a briefing and got saddled up and moved out into the field.
We waited as the helicopter flew search patterns in a pre-determined area to find the rhino’s that had not been previously attended to. After about 20 minutes we received communication from the pilot via our radio’s that we were to move closer as they were preparing to dart the first rhino. As we move closer , the words came across the loudspeaker…”the dart’s in , the dart’s in and the plunger is down…”
With incredible skill , the pilot moved the Robertson 44 heli around like a ballerina in the air and slowly move the rhino into an accessible open area for us to carry out the work. The drug takes affect within 10-12 minutes and it was an incredible sight to see the rhino moving towards us and then slowly just stopping and lying down.
As some of the guys had previously been involved with the program, they were quick to take up positions to stabilize the rhino and get the blind fold on and stabilizing ropes on.Wild Eye conservation part 3 was well underway.
With the vet monitoring the animal, taking DNA samples and blood, I was given the memorable task of drilling and microchipping the first animal.
I was shaking and very nervous being so close to such a majestic animal. With the speed of an F1 pit crew we did all the required bits and pieces and within 10-15 minutes we where done and the antidote given. The fellow got up a little slowly and with in seconds he was up and about looking for fresh grazing and the open bush veld.
The first rhino was with another young bull and while we were caring out the first part of the days mission , he hung around in the distance .
A quick decision was made to make this same bull the 2nd target of the day. As before we waited at the vehicles and the dart was fired. With incredible skill and precision we did not even move from the open area as the pilot herded the 2nd rhino straight to the same open area…
With the first patient still hovering around the pan area ,we set to work and as with the first rhino , he was was done and dusted within minutes !
Antidote given and off on his merry way.
With only two micro chipping kits left, Carlien decided to relocate to the northern section of the reserve and look for more suitable rhino’s. We followed in the vehicles and due to some ruff terrain did not manage to keep up with the helicopter.
Needless to say, we were not given much chance to get our breath as rhino number 3 was darted and ready for us.
He did not follow the same script as the first two and was very stubborn and went down in a very heavy thicket. We had to make our way on foot through thorns and brush to get to this chap and make sure he could be serviced as quickly as the other two. Easy as pie, no 3 was done and back on his feet.
With the adrenalin pumping intensely through our veins, we watch as the 4th dart was fired and the last rhino of the day darted. As it had warmed up by now, this rhino was more at risk for overheating so the rangers had drums of water and covered him numerous times so that there would be no complications. Below is a screen shot from the heli cam of the darting and the last one shows the ground crew at work.
The awesome nature lovers of Conservation Wild Eye. Thanks Grant for capturing the group images!!
A moment that changed the way I see the world of conservation through photography…
Drug used for darting – Zoletil @ R750 per 5g (mixed with sterile water)
Amount used for each – Unknown (due to poaching , not made public)
Reason for darting:
- Endangered species so it’s vitally important to track
- DNA records can be recorded
- Easy visual identification
- Various other reasons but due to poaching these cannot be made public
A great initiative by true lovers of the wildlife in our country…
Peace n Light
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