04 25/04/2013

Snared Black Rhino - We lost him

To hear that a rhino has died is always a sad day, but to know that it was a senseless death caused by poachers is horrific.

For those of you who have been following this story we’ve just received this sad news from our partners in Chyulu.

Despite some encouraging progress in recent days the injured rhino bull sadly died on Friday from the injuries caused by the snare.

We received the following message from Richard Bonham, Director of Operations in Chyulu.

One of our ground teams found the injured rhino tracks and called in support on the ground. The helicopter arrived and finally, after six long weeks, the immobilization dart went in. But it was too late. The injuries caused by the snare had taken their toll and the rhino, so weak, never came round.

As you can see from the pictures, it is astonishing that the rhino lasted so long with such a horrific wound. The wire cable had cut its way down to the bones of his neck, severing tendons and filled, by this stage, with deep infection and maggots. There was nothing anyone could have done and by his dying, at least saved us the decision of having to put him down.

It’s been a long 6 weeks, constituting at least 10,000 man hours, 20 hours of Chopper time and 35 hours of Super Cub flying time. The costs attached to all this are difficult to calculate but the whole operation has probably cost close to £23,000. We have asked ourselves (and others have also questioned us) was this investment worth trying to save one animal. The answer to this is simple – YES. We could not give up for two reasons.

The first is that none of us could live with ourselves if we had turned our backs on an animal that must have been in such agony and secondly, this rhino bull constituted one of our best hopes of making the precarious population of Chyulu rhino viable. We now only have one other breeding bull in our small population so all our hopes now rest with him.

We have all learnt so much from this last six weeks. We’ve been encouraged by the level of commitment that everyone involved has shown and all of the resources that have been invested; our rangers who worked from dawn to dusk; and dedicated individuals have dropped everything to support our search. Perhaps more importantly it is now clear how much we have to do to stop another population of black rhino toppling into extinction.

We have always known that the best protection the Chyulu rhino have is their dense and inhospitable habitat. This is illustrated so well by the fact it took us so long to find the injured bull. We also know a very important component is the use of camera traps and need to bring this to a much more sophisticated level by creating a unit who are dedicated to camera trapping - not only to monitor the rhino – but also poachers.

We need to supplement the 6 camera traps we have with another 25, that will cover entry and exit points of poachers and also the more heavily used areas by rhino. This will undoubtedly be a huge deterrent as I am sure once in place it won’t take long for us to identify those responsible for the death of this rhino.

We know that Chyulu area is a potential strong hold for rhino in the future and there is a plan to translocate more rhino to boost the population. However, before this can be done, there is a lot of work to do. We have to make more water available, secure the eastern boundary, increase security outposts and fund the camera trap operation. So as usual, so much to do!

It has been a disappointing outcome but still we would like to thank all of you who encouraged and supported us.


We would like to thank those of you who have already donated to the Rhino project on our Act for Wildlife website, but we need your support more than ever now.

The project desperately needs another 25 cameras to stop this sort of horrific attack happening again.

Can you help? Please visit our Act for Wildlife website and donate anything you can to help us to support the team in Chyulu.

We promise that 100% of your money will be used to protect rhinos. Thank you.