The Return of the Rhino - PhMuseum

The Return of the Rhino

Neil Aldridge

2013 - Ongoing

Botswana; South Africa; Zimbabwe; United Kingdom

Across Africa, rhinos are fighting for survival as the global poaching crisis enters its second decade. But there is hope.

In South Africa, where there is growing support for the consumptive use of rhinos and the legalisation of the trade in horn, vets are fighting to save the survivors of poaching attacks and give them a second chance at life, while others dedicate their lives to saving the orphans that lost their mothers to poaching.

Across the border in Botswana, where there were no rhinos left in the wild by 1992, huge efforts are underway to rebuild the rhino populations that the country lost to poaching by introducing rhinos from South Africa. Botswana is leading the way to recovery for Africa’s rhinos. This includes increased protection of its rhinos and local education.

All of this killing of rhinos has been to feed the demand for rhino horn in the Far East, where it is believed – wrongly – that the product has medicinal properties. The demand, coupled with the risk involved in attaining it, has led to rhino horn – a growth consisting of the same material as our finger nails – becoming more valuable than gold.

Beating poaching requires education, security and round-the-clock rhino monitoring. I joined the ground and aerial teams at Rhino Conservation Botswana and other projects on the frontline to capture the photographs for this story.

From what I saw, I feel there is hope…

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  • In South Africa alone, more than three black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) and white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) are killed every day for this - their horn - which is trafficked illegally to the far east for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Undisclosed location (due to security reasons), Southern Africa.

  • An adult female white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) known as Thandi is silhouetted against the sunset on South Africa's Kariega Game Reserve. Thandi's horns were taken in a brutal attack by poachers in which two other rhinos died. The poachers hacked so deeply into Thandi's face they exposed her nasal cavities. Pioneering vet work saved her life. Since the attack she has mothered two calves. She is doing her part to rebuild Africa’s rhino poaching in the face of the poaching onslaught that is feeding the illegal trade of rhino horn to the Far East. Her story has become a story of hope.

  • An orphaned white rhino is comforted by its foster mother - British vet nurse Jade Aldridge - at the Rhino Revolution rehabilitation centre in South Africa. Miraculously, despite seeing humans slaughter its real mother for her horns, this young rhino quickly learned to love a human as its new mother. Young rhinos traumatised by witnessing the death of their mothers are brought to the Rhino Revolution rehabilitation centre for care, safety and, eventually, to be returned to the wild.

  • Five orphaned white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) calves feed from a trough at dusk at the Rhino Revolution orphanage near Hoedspruit, South Africa where young rhinos traumatised by witnessing the death of their mothers are brought for care, safety and rehabilitation into the wild. The mothers of these rhinos were killed by poachers for their horns, which are traficked and sold illegally for Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Far East. Rhino horn has no medicinal properties.

  • With its mix of waterways, secure islands and pristine habitat, the wilderness of Botswana’s Okavango Delta was the logical place to begin an ambitious rhino reintroduction project and is now sustaining populations of black and white rhinos.

  • Vets inspect a white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) at night as it stands in a metal transport crate during a translocation operation to move rhinos from poaching hotpots in South Africa to the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana, where efforts are underway to rebuild the country’s rhino populations.

  • A vet ties ropes around the foot and head of a blindfolded and partially drugged white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) after a long journey to Botswana from a poaching hotspot in South Africa. The ropes help a team of conservationists safely guide the 2-tonne rhino from its crate into the wild. Botswana is saving rhinos from poaching in neighbouring countries while also restoring the rhino populations the country lost to poaching by the early 1990s.

  • Vets cut identification notches into the ear of a tranquilised white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) before releasing it into the wild of the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana after the rhino was translocated from South Africa as part of efforts to rebuild Botswana’s lost rhino populations. The ear notches help security teams to monitor the country’s growing rhino population and keep the animals safe in the face of the pressure from poaching.

  • A young white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) waits in a boma, blindfolded and partially drugged after a long journey from South Africa, before being released into the wild in Botswana as part of efforts to rebuild Botswana's lost rhino populations. Botswana is saving rhinos from poaching hotspots in neighbouring countries and translocating them to re-establish the populations of rhinos it lost to poaching by 1992.

  • Vets and conservationists support and guide a blindfolded and partially drugged 2-tonne white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) out of its transport crate and into its new home in northern Botswana during a translocation operation. Botswana is moving rhinos away from poaching hotspots in neighbouring countries while also restoring the rhino populations that the country lost to poaching by 1992.

  • A member of the Botswana Defence Force keeps guard while a rhino monitor from Rhino Conservation Botswana tracks a newly released rhino in the Okavango Delta. The charity Rhino Conservation Botswana works hand-in-hand with Botswana’s Defence Force and Anti Poaching Unit to keep the country’s burgeoning rhino populations safe.

  • A rhino protection dog is guided through its poacher tracking training at an Animals Saving Animals training facility in England before being deployed to northern Botswana. Rhino Conservation Botswana’s dog unit is part of efforts to protect the rhino populations that Botswana is rebuilding, having lost all of its rhinos to poaching and hunting by 1992.

  • Alongside increased protection and reducing the demand for rhino horn in the far east, education is a vital element in securing a future for wild rhinos in Africa. These school children at a school near Zimbabwe’s border with Botswana are being taught about the value of rhinos and the dangers of poaching.

  • Aerial view of a herd of wild white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) running free on Chief’s Island in the heart of the Okavango Delta. These rhinos are living free thanks to recent efforts to rebuild the rhino populations that Botswana lost to poaching by the early 1990s. Reintroduction efforts coupled with intense security is allowing Botswana to build rhino populations that will act as ark-like populations in the future, providing rhinos to other countries hard hit by poaching.


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