Poaching remains the greatest threat to African rhinos. According to one report, there have been 2 707 recorded rhino poaching incidents in Africa since 2017, 90% of which took place in South Africa. In the ongoing efforts to prevent poaching incidents, Pratley Quickset® Putty is being used with great success to assist with inserting VHF tracking devices into the horns of black and white rhinos.
To preserve the rhino population, conservation efforts like the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) were developed to protect black rhinos. The project aims to translocate black rhinos from the saturated Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to other Big 5 game reserves, explains Dinokeng Game Reserve GM David Boshoff. The black rhino numbers will be boosted by expanding the land available for their conservation to create new breeding populations.
“We are the only BREPP programme in Gauteng with a good population of black and white rhinos. Three years ago, we commenced with the VHF tracking programme to protect our rhinos against poaching,” continues Boshoff.
The first step in the VHF tracker programme in the Dinokeng Game Reserve is to locate the relevant rhino in this 19 000-ha game reserve via helicopter, whereafter it is darted with a quick-acting sedative by an experienced veterinarian.
The VHF transmitter is fitted into the rhino’s horn by drilling a small hole in the inert or dead part. The procedure is quick and causes no harm or pain to the rhino, following which the hole is plugged with Pratley Quickset® Putty. This ensures the device remains in place and provides long-term protection for the rhino’s horn.
Boshoff reveals that dental adhesive was used initially until a veterinarian came up with the idea of using the versatile Pratley Quickset® Putty, which has proved more than up to this important job of assisting with the preservation of black rhinos in the wild.
Pratley Quickset® Putty is a slightly water-soluble, hand-mouldable, quick-setting putty-like adhesive. The characteristics of the putty allow it to be further shaped and moulded on the horn without causing any discomfort to rhinos in the wild. Once the VHF tracker is placed in the horn, scientists and other researchers monitor the rhino’s movements for any abnormal activity to indicate it is being targeted by poachers.
“This is not the first time Pratley Adhesives have been used in conservation projects,” comments Mark Bell, Pratley’s National Sales and Marketing Manager for Adhesives. A green sea turtle had its damaged shell repaired with Pratley Putty, while researchers have successfully used Pratley Putty to adhere radio transmitters to the scales of pangolins while studying them in the wild.
“Many of our adhesive products are very well suited for on-the-go, outdoor applications, and we are happy that they have assisted many conservation initiatives over the years and continue to do so,” highlights Bell.
A recent project by Oceans Without Borders to preserve the coral reefs around Mnemba Island near Zanzibar saw Pratley Putty being used to secure coral fragments and restore endangered coral reefs off the coast of Zanzibar.
According to the 2022 State of the Rhino Report from the International Rhino Foundation, illegal trade in rhino horn continues to spur poaching, with an estimated 1 000 rhino horns traded every year. The global rhino population is estimated to be under 27 000.
The BRREP commenced in 2003 to counter the dramatic decrease in the number of black rhinos, resulting in their near extinction in the 1990s. The project is a partnership between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Board, supported by the Ford Wildlife Foundation.