Rhino conservation: How you can be involved

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Following a decade of intensive rhino poaching, six years of drought in the Eastern Cape and the impact of the pandemic on ecotourism, the responsibility of caring for the rhinos at Mantis Founders Lodge is onerous. In this article we outline the challenges facing rhinos, what is being done about it and how you can help.

The major challenges facing the rhinos at Mantis Founders Lodge

  • Since 2008, rhino poaching increased by over 9,000% due to an unsustainable demand for rhino horn products in the Far East. This has seen numbers of the Southern White Rhino, reduced from nearly 30,000 to less than 20,000 today. Sadly, more rhinos are being lost than being born, meaning that this species is on its way to becoming extinct unless effective intervention is achieved.
  • The incredibly biodiverse Eastern Cape of South Africa is currently in the sixth year of the most relentless drought in a century. Game reserves across the province are struggling to provide grazing to their rhinos and other animals, having to provide supplementary feed at a significant cost for their grass-eating wildlife.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has brought tourism to a grinding halt. This is catastrophic for Africa’s wildlife as conservation has traditionally relied on ecotourism to fund the conservation of wilderness and wildlife.

What does Mantis do to protect rhinos?

  • Boots on the ground to actively patrol reserves is the most effective way to prevent poachers from reaching our rhinos. These brave anti-poaching rangers form the last line of defense for our rhinos, putting their lives on the line as they put their months of training into action.
  • Security cameras with license plate and facial recognition capabilities in monitored areas, drones to patrol inaccessible and wider areas and high performance infrared thermal imaging and night vision equipment are some examples of how technology is used to protect rhinos. Surveillance cameras with Artificial Intelligence technology are also used to send alerts of any intruders and rhino movements. The rhinos are also fitted with tracking devices to keep track of their movements and find them quickly when necessary.
  • Mantis works with partners to support the long-term approach of reducing the demand for rhino horn products through educational campaigns via affluent schools in the Far East.
  • Supporting local communities around protected areas is vital in conservation efforts. Mantis’ foundation, the Community Conservation Fund Africa (CCFA), supports these communities through youth development and enterprise development programmes to cultivate community leaders who feel empowered and inspired to change the fate of the planet from one that is driven by greed and a scarcity mindset, to one guided by a unified awareness towards abundance, through sustainability.
  • Exceptionally relevant during times of drought, it is important to maintain the physical condition of rhinos through nutrition programmes. Like all animals, when rhinos lose condition, they are less likely to conceive and when they do give birth to a new calf during droughts, the survival chances of the calf are reduced. This is because the mother is unable to produce milk of the required quality, causing the baby rhino to be malnourished and weak.
  • The dehorning strategy is used to deter poachers from attempting to poach rhinos’ horns. The Mantis team would prefer to live in a world where dehorning is not necessary, and although not a stand-alone solution, dehorning is seen as an imperative tool which has proved largely successful as part of a fundamental strategy. Mantis believes that every available method needs to be considered at this time.

What does rhino dehorning entail?

Rhino dehorning procedures involve the rhino being darted. Once sedated, a pen is used to mark the point of safe removal above the nerve-rich horn base. While anaesthetized, a chainsaw is used to cut the horn off horizontally. Eyes and ears are covered to protect them from noise and potential damage. The stump is trimmed to remove excess horn at the base, then smoothed and covered with pine tar to prevent cracking and drying. The whole process is painless and quick, taking around 30 minutes.

How can joining the Rhino Conservation Experience help?

Mantis Founders Lodge carries out routine check-ups on their rhinos to check their overall condition, take blood samples, check, or replace their tracking devices, check females for pregnancy and remove their horns.

You can seize the unique opportunity to join a rhino procedure when you book the Rhino Conservation Experience. This Mantis Impact Experience is a four-day immersion in the world of conservation, learning from expert conservationists, being part of the action and making a difference. When you book this experience, you help sponsor the critical conservation work that you will be helping with and play a part in preserving these iconic animals for future generations.

Be part of a conservation legacy. Travel with purpose.

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