Dehorning rhinos to save them from poaching is an expensive and unfortunate but necessary measure to protect them against the ravages of the illicit trade in rhino horn. Made primarily of keratin, the same material as human hair and nails, rhino horn is in high demand in many Asian countries for carving sculptures and its purported medicinal properties and can fetch upwards of $60,000 per kilogram - more than cocaine or gold. .
The conservation team at Phinda Game Reserve @andbeyondphinda in South Africa have been dehorning their populations of black and white rhinos since 2016. Since the horn grows back at a rate of approximately one centimetre per month it is an ongoing and expensive exercise to keep ahead of the game, because even a few centimetres of growth is enough to motivate poachers to take an animal out. The team is now onto a second round of dehorning including the individual pictured here which first had its horn trimmed some 18 months ago. Cutting the horn is much like us cutting our nails, it doesn't hurt the animal, but it is nonetheless sedated to facilitate the process. Having now dehorned so many of its rhinos and with its continual close monitoring of its populations the Phinda team is also gathering valuable insights into the potential social and physiological impacts of dehorning which so far appear to be negligible. Nonetheless, eliminating the need for dehorning at all is the ultimate goal. .
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