It is estimated that rhino poaching has increased by 5000% since 2007 thanks to the demand in Asia. There are only a handful of rhinos left in Malawi and a number have been lost to poachers.  A rhino horn can fetch $100,000’s on the black market for its apparent medicinal powers. But rhino horn is actually made out of keratin, the same as our hair and finger nails and there is no proof whatsoever that it has special powers.

Last month Lilongwe Wildlife Centre vet, Dr Amanda Salb, was called upon to go and help with a project to put transmitters in the horns of five rhinos at Liwonde National Park in the South of Malawi. Fitting radio trackers will help Parks scouts and the research team track and hopefully protect the rhinos better.  It was 12 exhausting days mostly tracking on foot in 40c heat…a ‘walk in the park’ for Amanda, those who know her would say she’s a pretty steely character! Here are a few photos from her time there.

 rhino02 1.  One of the rhinos after being darted and prepared for the fitting of the tracking device.
 rhino05 2. Here’s Amanda checking for vitals and a general health check
 rhino03 3.  The horn was drilled ready for the transmitter.
 rhino08 4.  The transmitter before it is sealed in.
 rhino06 5.  One of the snares found.
 rhino07 6.  An old snare injury on one of the rhinos. Look how swollen the bad ankle is compared to the other.
 rhino09 7. Waking up…
 rhino10 8. That’s Amanda’s cap!
 rhino11 9. Saying thank you and see you later
 rhino13 10.  A rhino print.
 rhino14 11. A poacher print. The poachers tend to be local and poor. If ‘successful’ they see a fraction of the profit generated from their haul, with dealers higher up the food chain and often on the other side of the world exploiting both Africa’s wildlife and its people.
 rhino12 12. Finally, some rain…the team were out on foot for twelve days from 4am in the morning.
 rhino15 13.  A snare set specifically for rhino is dismantled
 rhino16 14.  The armoury: two scout’s guns and the vet’s dart gun lined up for lunch!
 rhino17 15. The final results. The tips of the horn are removed and archived and the names of each rhino written on the horn.