A field day in Waterberg Plateau Park

(A version of this article was originally published in The Horn, spring 2013. Author: Cathy Dean, Director)


The US Fish and Wildlife Service convened 45 experts from across African rhino range states to address rhino security from November 25-29, 2012 in Waterberg Plateau Park in Namibia. Participants included wildlife managers, security experts and law enforcement officers working on rhino conservation in Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The meeting brought together field practitioners working to protect Africa’s rhino populations in East and Southern Africa, in order to identify diplomatic interventions and technological equipment that could vastly improve rhino survival.

The meeting provided the opportunity to:

  • introduce field practitioners to others facing similar challenges
  • allow field people to share knowledge on which techniques and technologies are working and which are not, and under what conditions/circumstances
  • to advise USFWS and other US Government agencies on how best to contribute to improved rhino security through technology or policy

The meeting was confidential, so I can’t tell you too much about it, but here are some photos from the day we escaped the conference room for some practical demonstrations.


Waterberg 1


Waterberg Plateau Park provided a fantastic backdrop for our meeting. The Park is home to black and white rhino



Waterberg 2


Rhino experts, all in safari gear, getting wildly excited by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Joe and Gisela Noci of Wide Horizons later very kindly presented this drone to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, along with a flight instruction manual for Pierre du Preez


Waterberg 3MET’s veterinarians immobilised two white rhinos, with various experts showing us how to implant horn transmitters and microchips; how to collect DNA samples; how to fit a satellite bracelet; how to dehorn a rhino; and how to use a metal detector to check for bullets



Waterberg 4


A close-up of the freshly removed horn. The vets are always careful to leave enough of the base that the animal and the horn’s regrowth are not damaged



Waterberg 5


MET’s vet vehicle is well equipped





Waterberg 7


MET’s capture truck and crane has room for two crated rhinos at a time




Waterberg 6


We also admired Namibia’s new rhino bomas, which will be used as the holding facility for future captures and translocations. Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, this was true rhino porn. Veterinarians, capture teams, field programme managers were drooling at the sight of the Waterberg bomas. I’ve never seen so many photographs taken of an empty enclosure. Imagine what their photo albums are going to look like back home



All the feedback from the group said how useful the meeting had been, with its focus on equipment and technology that can help rhino programme managers do their jobs, whether from a security, monitoring or veterinary angle.



USFWS awarded $49,500 for the meeting, which was generously co-sponsored by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts ($9,800), the Ministry of Environment and Tourism with in-kind support worth $8,590 and Save the Rhino International ($8,150).


All images credit SRI