Did you know?
Our friends on the WWF Facebook page asked us many great questions about these beautiful animals, so we put them to our expert Dr. Joseph Okori, Rhino Programme Manager and a wildlife vet.
Here Dr. Okori answers a selection of your questions:
#1 - How does a rhino react to fear?
White rhino are more gregarious, more calm. They respond to threats by just running away. They run away, but the problem with them is that they run to a safe distance and stop, they don’t run away forever. This kind of behavior is one of the reasons why they get poached, also they like to stay in open grasslands.
Black rhino after attacking, if they have to retreat, they retreat into deep bushes and they can ambush you.
#2 - Why do rhinos have a difficult time reproducing?
#3 - What is the need to move rhinos from their original homes?
We move them in groups of 20 because we have found that that is the minimum number for successful breeding. And the best ratio is about ¾ female and the other ¼ being male. The second reason to move rhinos is to get them to safer habitats where they can be better protected. The third reason is when there are too many males in one area, so we move some to maintain a stable breeding balance.
#4 - What are the risks of dehorning?
With dehorning the horns usually grow back at about 3-4 inches every year, which means you are looking at total regrowth every 3-4 years, so you have to dehorn again and again. It becomes expensive and increases the risk of death from frequent exposure to sedation. There are also too many rhinos, in a place like Kruger for example with 10,000, to do repeated sedation and dehorning.
#5 - What about dying the rhino horns?
Unfortunately you have to sedate the rhino, so there are some risks. The risk from sedation is also heightened due to the time the rhino is down for the process. The whole process takes 40 mins to 1 hour, while for dehorning can be done in less than 30 minutes. The longer the rhino is down, the greater the risk to its health.
#6 - At what population do you consider rhinos functionally extinct? How close are we?
Right now when we establish new rhino groups we use groups of 20, which we consider to be a viable rhino group because we do not want extinction to happen. That’s why we promote an aggressive rhino expansion programme.
#7 - What effect would the total removal of rhinos have on the local ecosystems?
#8 - Is there any way to regenerate lost horns?
#9 - How many poachers have been convicted in the last two years? What are the official penalties?
#10 - In the end, how do you educate poachers?
We can also educate them by developing practical programs that address attitude and behavior change. We could take them to places like Namibia where communities are actively involved in rhino conservation to see the long term benefits rather than the short term gain. To deter people from becoming poachers we need to address community needs.