Rhino Darting & Tagging in the Pilanesberg

All “Removing The Blues” (RTB) members arrived at Selous Bush Camp on the afternoon of 31 March 2012, all pumped up and very excited to making a difference that matters to us.... Lunch was enjoyed by all and every one of the 12 members from RTB was now ready to take part in the late afternoon game drive... 

On arrival back from the game drive which was on a somewhat quite a chilly evening, the members quickly set off to their tents where they dressed warmly and made their way back down to the boma. Great stories were told around the fire... Dinner was a traditional South African braai enjoyed by everyone... An early night was expected due to the fact that we all had to be up early the next morning and fresh for the Rhino Darting & Tagging operation. 

The call of the Crested Francolin was sure to be heard at 05h15 and everyone was up at the crack of dawn slowly making their way to the lounge area in time for some Hot Chocolate/Coffee and rusks.

By 5h45 am, we all jumped into the vehicle and made our way to Manyane Gate, Pilanesberg, only a 10 min drive from Selous Bush Camp where we were met and greeted by a Game Trackers representative. Everything was running smoothly and on time as we made our way to the Helicopter Pad. Here we were met and greeted by Mr Steve Dell – (Pilanesberg Ecologist).

Everyone stood around in Great Spirit while we waited for the Veterinarian and Pilot to arrive by helicopter.
After waiting for about 10 min everyone could hear the Helicopter approaching in the silent bushveld as the pilot, Nico Jacobs made his way to the Helicopter pad. One could notice the enthusiasm and excitement on the faces of the RTB members.

The Veterinarian made his way towards us; we were greeted and introduced to Dr Louis Greef (from Medivet Kliniek, Thabazimbi) where he briefed us on the operation – the do’s and don’ts, and the various medicines used for this operation to take place. It was all worth listing to and very interesting!  

After the briefing, time was called for the operation to start and Nico Jacobs (Pilot) and Dr Louis Greef (Veterinarian) made their way to the Helicopter while we pushed ahead of them in the game vehicle and following the ground crew in the 4 x 4 bakkies. It wasn’t even 5 min when Steve Dell was radioed and told to go 3 clicks ahead where a suitable White Rhino was sighted amongst another 2 Rhino in a family group... While heading closer to the scene of the operation, the darting was taking place from the helicopter and this process was in pursuit to making a difference for our Rhino... 

After having darted the Rhino, the family group was split up, taking +- 5 min for the Rhino to come to a halt where the ground crew and Vet acted very quickly and professionally in order to minimise any complications and possible trauma for the Rhino. Firstly they needed to deem the area safe and then stabilise the Rhino and get it into such a position for the ground crew and Vet to do their business. 

This is when the RTB members were allowed to get off the vehicle and take photos during this period of time. In the process of this all, the Rhino's ears were notched so that identification is possible in future. Blood samples were taken for DNA purposes should this rhino be poached or die at any time and a GPS based transmitter was implanted in the horn for location and identification should the horn and body be separated.

Once all the work was completed the RTB members took their last photo images alongside the Rhino and then proceeded back to the game vehicle. This was when Dr Louis Greef injected the reversal drug for the Rhino to run freely again in it’s natural habitat.  The operation took about 25 min in total and all members were touched, and some in this case were even in tears knowing that they have given back to a worthy cause for this most beautiful mammal species which is on the brink of extinction should poaching continue the way it does...!

Having spoken to most of the RTB members after the operation and asking what their thoughts were... “All one could say was, unbelievable experience and that they were glad to know that their monies raised were deservedly aimed at worthy cause and will do this all over again without hesitation”. 

Written by Matthew Grace of African Safari Guru