The ﬁrst country to use the dehorning method to protect its rhinos from poaching was Namibia. Between 1989 and the 1990s, dehorning together with fast improvements in security and increases in funding for anti-poaching units was perceived by most stakeholders to have contributed drastically to decreasing poaching losses. Not a single dehorned rhino was poached in Namibia (Save The Rhino : 2018).
There have been a few other successful stories across Africa. Rhinos that have been dehorned in certain Zimbabwe Lowveld conservancies in recent years appear to have a 29.1% higher chance of survival than horned animals. Just over one third of all reserves’ rhinos In Mpumalanga, South Africa (this excludes Kruger National Park) have been dehorned, with only one rhino being a dehorned rhino out of 33 poached in 2009-2011.
However, there are cases where dehorning has been insufﬁcient in preventing rhinos from falling victim to poachers. For instance, in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe through the early 1990s, most of the dehorned rhinos were poached and killed between twelve and eighteen months after being dehorned. Nearly six newly dehorned rhinos were killed In Zimbabwe’s Save Valley Conservancy between January and August of 2011 (one of the rhino was poached within 24 hours and another within only ﬁve days of being dehorned).
An important aspect of the dehorning debate is whether or not rhinos actually need their horns. The evolutionary importance of horns in rhinos is not completely clear, and may include reasons such as mate choice or anti-predator defence. It is a known fact that rhinos use their horns for many behavioural functions which include; defending their territories, defending their calves from other predators and rhinos, maternal care (this includes guiding calves) and for foraging behaviour such as excavating water and breaking branches. Male rhinos also use their horns over territory or dominance disputes, therefore the removal of a rhinos horn may undermine particular bulls ability to maintain territory or status. On the other hand, dehorning has reduce ﬁghting-related mortalities between Black rhinos in Zimbabwe. However, dehorning could also reduce the value of rhinos, whether it is for photographic or hunting tourism or even as a potential live sale.
To read more on the Dehorning Process we recommend taking a look at “A Study on the dehorning of African rhinoceroses as a tool to reduce the risk of poaching” by The Department of Environmental Affairs (South Africa) (2011) – here’s the link.