Whether you’re bottle-feeding an orphaned baby rhino, saving a rhino’s life by helping to dehorn her, or getting to grips with the physically demanding work of capture and relocation, our conservation experiences put you at the heart of Africa’s battle to save the rhino.
Working hands-on with rhino every day, you’ll also get to know these surprisingly elusive and often misunderstood animals in a way few people ever do.
Go behind the scenes on a ‘Big 5’ reserve and join one of the biggest conservation success stories
Help save the rhino at the largest specialist rhino care centre in Africa
Team up with an experienced vet, treating wildlife in the wild and at a clinic
Experience for yourself the adrenaline-fueled world of wildlife capture and relocation
Accompanied by experts, learn about rhino in the field and care for orphaned rhino at a specialist centre
Work with the world’s largest land animal by joining a team of experts
Help save the rhino by working closely with these incredible prehistoric creatures
Help injured and orphaned animals through wildlife care, husbandry and nursing
Learn from conservationists and field researchers, helping to protect wild animals and ecosystems
Join some of Africa’s most experienced wildlife vets and help treat wild animals
I highly recommend the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience to anyone considering applying. You will not only gain useful veterinary knowledge and skills, you will also create amazing and unique memories in an astonishingly beautiful country.
1) One rhino is killed for their horn every eight hours.
Even though rhino poaching is illegal in South Africa and carries a long-term prison sentence, poachers continue to kill rhino in their thousands.
2) Rhino are illegally hunted for their horns’ supposed medicinal qualities.
In the traditional medicine systems of some Asian countries, powdered horn is believed to cure a variety of ailments from hangovers to cancer. However, there is no evidence that horns have any of their claimed medical properties. In fact, rhino horn is nothing more than keratin, the same material you’ll find freely available in your toenail and fingernail clippings or scattered on the floor during your next trip to the hairdressers.
3) According to the WWF, there are approximately 20,000 white rhino and just 4,800 black rhino left in the wild.
The International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species now categorises the black rhino as ‘critically endangered.’
4) As rhino numbers dwindle, the price of horn rises.
Sadly, this means people in some parts of East Asia now buy rhino horns purely as a grotesque symbol of wealth, sometimes even using them to close business deals. This creates a vicious cycle of reduced supply and increased demand.
5) Rhino horn is one of the most valuable materials on Earth.
In some countries, it is worth more than its weight in gold. But it is worth pointing out again that this huge amount of money gains the buyer nothing more than a very large toenail (or nosenail to be more exact).
6) Most of Africa’s rhino poaching is focused on Kruger National Park.
The vast majority of white rhino are found in South Africa, making Kruger a real target for poachers. However, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya also have large rhino populations and poaching gangs have also take a serious toll in these countries as well.
7) In 2017, poachers killed a rhino in a Paris zoo.
This high-profile act of violence and cruelty brought the rhino poaching crisis home to many animal rights activists across Europe.
8) Over 1,000 rhino are now killed every year…
… according to researchers who work with rhino in Africa. This amounts to three rhinos being lost from the wild each day. If this statistic is not reduced we could see a collapse in the wild rhino population in as little as ten years.
So how do you stop rhino poaching? Well, conservationists working with rhino in Africa have trialled many anti-poaching strategies over the years and one of the most effective is humane dehorning. This veterinary procedure, where a rhino is sedated and their horn removed, helps to reduce the poacher’s incentive for killing the animal.
Humane dehorning was first used as an anti-poaching strategy in Namibia during the early 1990s. During this original trial, no dehorned rhinos were poached and dehorning went on to be adopted in South Africa, Zimbabwe and elsewhere as an anti-poaching strategy.
While dehorning programmes have proved successful, in some locations poachers continued killing rhino regardless of whether or not they had been dehorned. This is because dehorning does not completely remove the horn, as this would be fatal to the animal. And some poachers are prepared to kill a rhino for the stump that remains after it has been dehorned.
As such, conservationists working with rhino in Africa now understand that for dehorning to be effective it needs to be part of a holistic anti-poaching strategy. That means security, monitoring and education need to be put into action alongside a dehorning programme.
Rhino dehorning may be an effective anti-poaching strategy but it is far from perfect. Any surgical procedure carries a risk of harm or even death to the rhino, particularly when using strong sedative drugs. Rhino horn also grows back over time, meaning rhino need to be dehorned on an ongoing basis. There is also the ethical question of whether or not it is right to remove a rhino’s horn, which they use to protect their young and in territorial battles especially between males.
Finally, there is the price. It is estimated that each individual dehorning prices over USD2,000. This means that to dehorn every rhino in South Africa would cost tens of millions of dollars. While you can’t put a price on the life on an animal, the reality is wildlife conservationists in Africa don’t have unlimited funds.
Despite these drawbacks, most wildlife conservationists working with rhino agree that, until a better strategy is found, the benefits of dehorning greatly outweigh the risks.
Some game reserves in South Africa have successfully managed to increase their rhino populations through a programme of skilful management, security and dehorning. And now they’re sharing their success with other regions, by relocating rhino in sufficient numbers to repopulate areas where they had been wiped out. Since 2013, more than 100 rhino have been relocated from reserves in South Africa to Botswana, a country where rhino had been hunted to extinction.
Botswana’s government have committed themselves to a huge security effort to re-establish rhino in their country, even deploying their military in the fight against poachers. Meanwhile, conservationists working with rhino in South Africa have been educating their compatriots in Botswana about management strategies.
It’s still too early to tell how successful rhino relocation will be. But the early signs suggest that breeding and relocation, alongside a programme of dehorning, security and monitoring, offer a glimmer of hope for conservationists working to save the rhino.