“The day that we started de-horning, I didn’t sleep that night, in fact for days beforehand, wondering if it was the right decision.”
– Simon Naylor, Phinda Reserve Manager
Neither is it an easy choice. However, in early 2016, &Beyond was faced with this difficult decision. USD 100 000 was the going black market value in Asia for one kg of rhino horn. Incredibly, made from the same material as fingernails, rhino horn was fetching a higher price than platinum. There was a sobering message in the escalating poaching statistics; some reserves in the area had lost all their rhino and others had started the process of de-horning. There were increasing numbers of incursions onto the Phinda Private Game Reserve (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). Without some serious intervention, Phinda’s rhino population had no hope of survival. In May 2016, the decision was taken to implement a de-horning programme.
The last Phinda rhino lost to poachers was 2 ½ years ago. In looking back, Simon Naylor reflects that in those dark days, de-horning certainly gave Phinda’s population a better chance. However this process is certainly not a stand-alone solution, and &Beyond has put other stringent counter-measures in place. These include doubling our field ranger force; specialised military training of these rangers; aerial patrols; a canine unit; uncompromising security measures; impact-awareness activities for our guests, and the active education and involvement of all five communities surrounding our reserve.
When asked about the importance of this community education and involvement, Simon explained it like this: ‘Community buy-in and support is crucial and vital if wildlife and wild areas are to exist into the future. Education, awareness and real benefits must be felt by communities surrounding a park-like Phinda. In the case of rhino conservation, our communities are our first line of defence. Without their support rhinos will not exist in Africa no matter how much security a park has. But they need to understand their value to not only the park but to themselves first.’
Quick Fact! Over the last year, &Beyond South Africa has given a staggering 3 174 lessons in conservation. Included in this total, are 2 261 game drives and conservation lessons that have been held on the reserve as part of the ground-breaking Environmental Education Programme.
‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”
– Benjamin Franklin