Get to know... the life of a rhino monitor

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Meet Natasha Anderson

Natasha, a Rhino Monitoring Coordinator working in Zimbabwe's Lowveld region tells us all about what Rhino Monitors do on a day-to-day basis, and why routine monitoring is so important for Zimbabwe's black rhino population.

What is rhino monitoring? 

"Rhino monitoring means having an accurate picture of rhino numbers, birth rates and where rhinos are living. It also involves taking active steps to deter poachers and safeguard rhinos. These include: 

De-horning: to take away what poachers primarily want. De-horning can help deter poachers but it doesn't guarantee that a rhino will stay safe. De-horning works best in conjunction with a range of other security measures - and rhino monitors who keep track of the population. You can't beat boots on the ground. There are pros and cons to de-horning, and you can find out more about the procedure here.

Routine Rhino Monitoring

Translocations: moving rhinos away from areas where poachers operate, or to prevent fighting between rhinos. We move rhinos to safer locations if we know of poaching incidents in a particular area. Or, we might have to move an aggressive male to prevent fighting between rhinos. Sometimes when they have a bit too much testosterone they need more space.

Ear notching: ear notching calves before they leave their mothers helps identify them in the future. Each year at the Lowveld Rhino Trust we undertake ear notching operations. We ear notch calves before they leave their mothers so we can accurately identify them. This also helps us to monitor the genetic diversity of the population, which is important for managing any species. 

Natasha saying hello to a rhino in a boma  c  LRT

Tracking: on foot and by the air, to learn more about rhinos and their habitats Transmitters placed in horns help us track rhinos, too. We mostly audit our rhino population by tracking on foot - relying on the age old skill of spoor tracking. We also have an aircraft to spot and positively identify rhinos.Through this work we can build a family tree of our rhino population and learn more about how black rhinos interact with each other.

Black rhinos are much more social than they've been given credit for. Being able to choose their associated, and being settled in their territory with familiar rhinos, are really important factors in breeding rates."

 

Each rhino is more than a statistic, they are an animal with whom we have a shared history 

 

What are the biggest threats faced by Zimbabwe's black rhinos?

"Poaching is a huge threat to rhinos, but there is an even bigger problem that gets far less attention: habitat loss. If you look at satellite images of Africa, a continent of green forests is turning brown as human settlements, agriculture and livestock moves into wild spaces. 

Rhino poaching and loss of rhino habitat are huge global issues. This is because rhinos are indicators of general biodiversity, and where rhinos are struggling, other species will struggle too. Rhino need large wild spaces and good management to survive as viable populations. If rhino numbers are growing, a region's biodiversity is normally sound. 

Protecting rhinos is about protecting our planet and to do that we need to look after them in the wild - and, if humans are nearby and need resources - learn how to live alongside each other better." 

 

Lowveld region

 

Above, the Lowveld Region in Zimbabwe, where rhinos and humans are increasingly having to share the same land.

 

This Christmas, Save the Rhino is fundraising for the Lowveld Rhino Trust's Great Land Share Project, aiming to help them humans and rhinos live side by side, by educating local community members to become Wildlife Guardians and pass on skills about how to live alongside wildlife and manage the local environment. Find out more here.


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