Safeguarding black rhino


With ongoing rhino-poaching incidents across Southern Africa, conservationists are challenged to find new methods of keeping rhino safe. For this reason, Saving the Survivors (STS), a team of wildlife vets dedicated to rescuing animals that are victims of poaching and other trauma, recently implemented a dehorning operation in Mozambique with its partners.


Black rhino in Mozambique. Photo: Provided

For the first time in this country’s history, several Critically Endangered black rhino were immobilised, dehorned and tagged in the Sábiè Game Park in Mozambique, an important landscape for black-rhino conservation. Dehorned individuals are less likely to be poached, and satellite tracking gives conservationists the precise location of the rhino.

“Since we dehorned in this area, the incursions have dropped to almost zero,” says Dr Johan Marais, wildlife vet and CEO of STS. Rhino horn grows back and individuals therefore need to be dehorned every
two years.

Sábiè Game Park is a private concession that falls within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTCA), and has dedicated time, resources and efforts to rhino protection. The Mozambican component of the GLTCA provides a security buffer zone for the Kruger National Park and can provide millions of hectares of true, wild and interconnected black-rhino habitat, key for the successful long-term conservation of the species, according to Marais.

The black rhino species is globally classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with less than 6 000 individuals surviving in the wild. Mozambique does not have many rhino, but is putting much effort into the conservation of the species. “Mozambique has changed its laws recently, imposing heavy fines on people caught with ivory and rhino horn,” says Marais. “They have made great strides in conservation over the past 10 years, with Dr Carlos Pereira leading the way.”

Dehorning operations do not come without their challenges, and darting rhino comes with risks. “The animals cannot be examined beforehand as is done for dogs, cats and horses, so it is always a risk to put a wild animal under immobilisation,” says Marais. Once rhino are darted, they also do not pick the perfect location to lapse into unconsciousness. “We have had black rhino going down in an inaccessible area where we had to use the helicopter to bring in all the people and equipment.”

The small lightweight tag fitted on the ear. Photo: Provided.

STS provides wildlife veterinary support to the Mozambican Government, implementing conservation actions such as dehorning, collaring, translocations, research, and human-wildlife conflict mitigation. The operation was sanctioned by the National Administration of Protected Areas to reduce poaching pressure on the small yet important black-rhino population of Mozambique.

Play your part in saving the rhino

In the modern world, non-profit organisations supporting rhino conservation are as plentiful as hair on a dog’s back. Tracking what the funds are used for is not always as easy. Large admin costs are frequently deducted from donations.

When it comes to rhino conservation, thousands of organisations raise funds for rhino, but Saving the Survivors gets its hands dirty by making a difference where needed most.

Not only does the organisation conduct facial-reconstruction surgery on rhino and other endangered wildlife affected by poaching, but one of its latest areas of focus has been the dehorning, tagging, and notching of black rhino. These procedures are expensive as they require a qualified team that includes a veterinarian, and a helicopter as these events often take place in difficult terrain.

Saving the Survivors relies on public funding to conduct its work. The organisation welcomes any donations from individuals, but corporate companies also are urged to get on board to help create a future for rhino by sponsoring these events.

Get involved!

Keen to get involved with the conservation of rhino? Visit, select the rhino and make your donation. For enquiries about corporate sponsorships, email

Our other causes

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The project manages the southern ground hornbill metapopulation. Funding goes towards raising chicks and building artificial nests due to a shortage of nesting trees in the wild.

Okapi Conservation Project
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Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection
The West African chimpanzee has disappeared in Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso. In Liberia, they are confiscated from illegal trade and captivity. Funding goes towards caring for the orphans.

Lemur Love
Wild lemur populations in Madagascar have decreased by 95% since 2000. Funding goes towards research, creating employment and conservation promotion.

African Pangolin Working Group
Funding goes towards operations, travelling to court cases, and to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital that offers veterinary care for affected pangolins.

Back a Ranger
Africa’s rangers are under pressure due to the increased poaching and working long hours. Funds can assist with equipment, counter-poaching requirements, projects and more.

Written by René de Klerk
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