Newly qualified Ranger Jomi Krobb from Dublin in Ireland describes the process of rhino notching at Marataba.
The Marataba section of the Marakele National park is a privately owned concession, which still falls under the parameters of a SAN park (South African National Park). In Marataba’s case, the shareholders are mainly Europeans and, needless to say, they frequently come to visit this stunning part of the world. On this occasion the main purpose of their visit was for the AGM and I was one of the guides, who would take them out into the bush while they were here.
There is quite a difference between taking ‘regular’ tourists out on safari and exploring the concession with the landowners. The partners were not only highly informed about issues concerning conservation on a global level but also on a local level. And they were exceptionally keen to get involved.
We did all manner of exciting things during the visit including sleep-outs, walks and helicopter trips to remote locations but two activities stood out head and shoulders above the rest to me: ‘rhino notching’ and ‘live game capture’.
In an effort to prevent poaching and to gain as much information on each individual as possible, the Marataba Conservation team regularly dart rhinos. This is done from a helicopter by a professionally trained vet. There is also a ground team (which we were part of) that rush to the location of the darted rhino in order to collect data, what happens next is a four stage process:
1. Firstly we make sure the rhino was fully sedated.
2. We then drape a cloth over its eyes, take blood, horn and DNA samples, horn measurements, as well as inserting microchips into the horns and body. These enable any poached horn to be traced back to the individual rhino.
3. Then we carve small notches into the ears. This acts as a numbering system that helps in identifying individuals and assessing numbers on a larger scale.
4. Finally the rhino is brought back to full consciousness and trundles off as if nothing ever happened. The whole process takes about 15 minutes, which is entirely down to the professionalism of Andre and the Marataba conservation team.
Look out for Jomi’s next blog about “live game capture”.
Discover more about the rhinos of Africa.