Today we welcome rhino bull, Ike, a poaching survivor from Pilanesberg National Park. Ike will join the other three female rhino survivors already in our care. Together, the four will form the first hornless rhino herd.
Ike’s story and rehabilitation:
In July last year, an approximately four year old white rhino bull was discovered by the anti-poaching unit in the Pilanesberg National Park with both of his horns hacked off. In the process, his horn bed had been severely damaged. He had also been slashed with a panga across the back.
The team from Saving The Survivors (STS) was called in to assess the bull’s injuries and to decide on a treatment plan. The rhino was named Ikanyega (which means ‘Trust’ in Setswana), or Ike for short.
Over the past 14 months, Ike’s wound has been cleaned and covered on two separate occasions. The wounds healed, but a piece of horn present after the attack had subsequently grown quite large. It was then decided to surgically remove the horn-producing layer, as well as the stub. This was to prevent another attack by poachers.
Dr Gerhard Steenkamp from STS, assisted by Dr Gerhardus Scheepers, performed the procedure that lasted for just over an hour. A protective shield was placed over the affected area, which was removed when Ike was prepared for his relocation to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC). Ike will therefore remain hornless for the rest of his life.
Ike was placed in STS’s custody as he would not be able to survive the onslaught of other rhino bulls in the wild. It was therefore decided to move him to the established rhino sanctuary at HESC (Rescued Rhinos @ HESC), where he will be kept with three cows, also survivors from poaching attempts with horns in various stages of repair.
The idea is for these survivors to start breeding and form the first hornless rhino herd (inadvertently) created by poachers.
Dr Gerhard Steenkamp from STS says the tragedy that struck these four will hopefully have significant value for the species in future.
“At STS we have always maintained that spending time, money and energy on every single rhino is important, not only for who they are but for the genetic potential they have and can invest in the survival of the species.”
An overview of the process (including application for permits, the big move and arrival):
After all permissions, paperwork and permits were obtained from the provinces of North West and Limpopo, as well as the national department of environmental affairs, the process to move Ike from the Pilanesberg National Park to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre could finally begin.
The import and export permits were for the standard move of a rhino, that is the Threatened or Protected Species (ToPS) permits for the relevant provinces.
The Pilanesberg National Park together with the Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust (represented by Perry Dell) and the Copenhagen Zoo (represented by manager Charlotte Marais) have been looking after Ike and sponsoring his food while he was kept in the camp prior to his relocation.
According to Steve Dell, field ecologist at the Pilanesberg National Park (for the North West Parks Board), it has been a process but Ike is ready for the move to his new home.
“Now he can finally join the de-horned herd and be a contributor to rhino conservation. After a year of recovery and waiting for signatures the day is finally here.”
The team at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) is on standby to take acceptance of the rhino bull.
Says Adine Roode, Managing Director at HESC:
“We are looking so forward to welcoming Ike as one of the Rescued Rhinos @ HESC, and to working alongside STS on yet another success story. It is thanks to the tireless efforts of every person in this collaboration that we have managed to prove that surviving victims of poaching can be rehabilitated. We are extremely grateful for the alliance, and for all that we have learned over the years. We are committed to fulfilling our specific part of this project, in housing and caring for Ike, and assisting with future breeding initiatives.”
On arrival at HESC, Ike will be released into the 15 hectare camp together with the other adult surviving cows. These camps are secure enclosures, with a vigilant anti-poaching team on site.