Why are rhino horns not removed by vets when they are young?

Earlier this month, one of our Facebook Friends, Abigail, posted this question:

“Sounds a daft question but why are the rhino horns not removed by vets when they are young, then surely the poachers won’t kill them ??”

This is definitely not a daft question at all !

rhino anti-poaching
Two de-horned rhino

Removing the horns is a very intrusive, expensive and risky procedure, as the rhinos have to have a general anaesthetic to immobilise them, which sometimes leads to complications and death itself.

However, in some high-risk areas of Africa, de-horning is regularly carried out.

Although this can reduce the number of rhinos being poached, the numbers are still frighteningly high.

The truth behind de-horning rhino

1 – there is still a stub of horn left after de-horning (only 7-10% of the total horn), but this still has plenty of monetary value.

2 – poachers are unaware that the rhino has been de-horned until it’s been shot

3 – vengeance, to avoid tracking them again.

4 – horns grow back in time, more quickly if they’ve been dehorned. Ideally, rhinos should be de-horned every 12-24 months. And then what happens to the “discarded” horn?

rhino volunteering
Baby rhino at the Rhino & Elephant Sanctuary

What else needs to be done?

Rhino poaching reached record levels last year in South Africa, having escalated for 5 years in a row. On current trends, deaths could soon outnumber births, causing the population to crash!!

For dehorning to be effective, it must be coupled with extensive anti-poaching security and monitoring efforts. With an absence of security, rhinos may continue to be poached regardless of whether they have been dehorned.

Great article here from Save the Rhino.

Volunteering in rhino conservation

Most species of rhino are considered critically endangered. The fact that their long gestation period is 487 days, is an extra obstacle to replenishing the population. Due to their size, adult white rhinos have no natural predators (other than man), and life expectancy in natural conditions, is from 40 to 50 years. More needs to be done now, and if you fancy volunteering, here are a couple of great projects:-

1) Rhino & Elephant Sanctuary

Here at the Rhino & Elephant Sanctuary in Zimbabwe, volunteers have the opportunity to work hands-on with the endangered rhino, as well as the elephants and other wildlife found on this beautiful Safari Ranch.

And it is fabulous news that 3 rhino calves are expected in 2014, as all the females rhinos here have mated.

rhino conservation volunteering
Baby Gertjie carried, and chewed on, the stick during his walk, at the Big Cat & Endangered Wildlife Centre.

2) The Big Cat & Endangered Wildlife project

The majority of the work at this centre in South Africa, is with the endangered cheetah. However last month, they took in a new rescued baby rhino Gertjie, who was found extremely traumatised, when his mother was brutally killed for her horn.

The Big Cat & Endangered Wildlife project is relieved that Gertjie has taken to his milk formula with gusto – without an adequate replacement for his mother’s milk, he would never have made it. The poor thing was extremely traumatised, but has continued to improve daily and is now becoming a confident and strong young calf.

3) Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

The focus on this new Rare & Endangered Species Camp is on-the-ground, hands-on monitoring of some of Africa’s rare and endangered species, and research will focus primarily on walking-based rhino monitoring.

For more news and updates on Rhinos, please become our Facebook Friend 🙂

Do something Amazing !!


A truly life changing experience, working on wildlife and community volunteering projects in Africa over 15 years ago, convinced Gemma Whitehouse to give up her job as a Marketing Manager for an international organisation and use her skills and expertise to set up a company that would offer others the same amazing opportunities with a service second to none - thus Amanzi Travel was born.

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