What is it?
The horn trim consists of safely removing part of the horn from the rhino, without damaging the growth plate or causing any harm or pain to the animal.
You can see it as cutting the white part of your fingernails. When poachers remove the horn, they cut the entire las phalanx – which results in the animal bleeding to death.
The procedure starts early in the morning, before sunrise, with the rhino monitors going out into the reserve to find a good candidate. In the meantime, a helicopter will fly in and both air and ground teams will get ready.
The vet will fly to the chosen candidate and dart it with a sedative, and the ground team will follow shortly to place a blindfold and earplugs on to the darted animal to reduce stimulation around the sedated animal. We trim the horn above the growth plate, collect DNA samples for the national database and in less than 15 minutes the procedure is done.
Horn trimming is an exercise in wildlife conservation that directly mitigates poaching.
Reserves that have horn trimming programmes in place are experiencing a significant decrease in poaching pressure, and many have had no poaching incidents since the implementation of this program.
We understand the concerns around rhinos not having their horns, and we monitor their population dynamics and share our data with scientists who are investigating this impact directly.
Whilst there has been a change in rhino behaviour, so far it does not affect their ability to reproduce, and in the short-term this far outweighs the risks associated with poaching to the point of extinction.
On it’s own it’s not the answer and doesn’t eliminate poaching but together with increased security, rhino monitoring and working with communities and other organisations to create awareness and education around the crisis, it has proven to reduce the risk of poaching.