Horses involved in Rhino conservation and anti-poaching

Ever since my first safari and specifically my first encounter with a white rhino and her calf, I have become incredibly passionate about wildlife conservation. In this post I’ll specifically be discussing the conservation of rhinos and anti-poaching efforts. What is being done, what can you do and how are horses involved in anti-poaching?

Horse riding in big 5 area with two rhinos
Rhino sighting in South Africa

History of rhinos and rhino poaching

Rhino populations are decreasing rapidly as they are often (one every 22 hours on average!) poached for their very valuable horns. Usually, the horns are used in Chinese traditional medicine, however, it has never been proven that rhino horn has any medicinal properties whatsoever. Many people sadly do still believe that it does, which keeps up the high demand for rhino horn.

Below you’ll find a graph from Save the Rhino, an organisation that’s making an incredible effort to decrease rhino poaching and help in their conservation. Rhino poaching massively spiked in 2013, and is now decreasing in the last years. This is definitely good news and gives us all hope. However, these numbers are still much too high for the rhino populations to survive long term, which is why it is still very important to make more of a massive conservation effort.

Rhino poaching statistics 2006 to 2020
Credit: Save the Rhino International

The northern white rhino is an extremely sad example of how rhino poaching can wipe out an entire sub species. With only two (females) left on the entire planet, the species has reached functional extinction. These last two females live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. There are great efforts being made to preserve this subspecies. Last attempts are being made to reproduce this species with material that has been collected from the last male and females. If successful, the calf will be carried by a southern white rhino as they want to make sure the risk for the last two northern white rhinos is as low as possible. This type of innovation is making amazing contributions to wildlife conservation. If you are interested in seeing more of the last two northern white rhinos, please have a look at Ol Pejeta’s instagram account.

Southern white rhino in South Africa
Southern white rhino in South Africa

What is being done: rhino conservation

There are many projects and organisations focused on the conservation of rhino. I already gave you some information on the amazing things and innovation being done by Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Besides innovation, there are many other efforts being made to conserve these beautiful animals. Rhinos in protected areas are either constantly monitored, like the rhinos in the video below, or being protected by an anti-poaching unit. These efforts are very effective, but a lot of money, rangers and resources are needed to perform enough tracking and anti-poaching. This is where we can all help! At the end of this post I will tell you all about what you can do for rhino conservation.

Also read: Volunteering with horses for rhino conservation in Zimbabwe

Horses in anti-poaching

Horses are often used on anti-poaching units, and for good reasons! They are excellent for patrols as they cover lots more distance (and do it with more ease) than rangers do on foot. This allows rangers to not be as fatigued if or when they do come into contact with a poacher and it gives them a quicker response time. Another reason for using horses instead of going on foot is to be able to have a better overview due to the height advantage, especially in grassy areas. Wildlife management and studies are also much easier to do on horseback as opposed to on foot or in a vehicle as the wildlife is much calmer, therefore it’s easier to observe and understand species diversity and populations. Besides the quietness of horses, they are also an amazing way to decrease the anti-poaching unit’s carbon footprint. Last but not least, horses have incredible hearing and sense wildlife, humans or any activity long before a ranger can spot it. All in all, horses are amazing additions to anti-poaching units due to many reasons and have gained lots of respect in this way.

White rhino sighting while on horseback riding safari in South Africa
White rhino sighting while on horseback riding safari in South Africa.

What can you do about rhino conservation

There are lots of ways to help out with rhino conservation. There is of course the option to donate! Make sure to find an organisation that you trust and preferably one that does projects that genuinely interest you and that you might even be able to get involved in. There are a few different organisations that I either donate to on a monthly basis or once in a while. First of all there’s Save the Rhino, I really like this organisation as they provide you with lots of options and information. Second, there’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, they also provide lots of important information and are the home to the last two northern white rhinos on the planet. Last but not least, there’s Rhino Fund Uganda, which holds a very special place in my heart. I volunteered with Rhino Fund Uganda and it was such an incredible experience to be a part of their efforts as a rhino breeding conservancy. I learnt so much from the rangers with whom I tracked the rhino every day, and knowing that their 33 rhino are the only ones in Uganda makes it even more special. Lots of organisations are struggling now due to Covid and lack of tourism, and they are in desperate need of support from us. There are lots of options to get involved and donate, it can be a once-off donation or membership, or get involved by volunteering. Save the Rhino, Ol Pejeta and Rhino Fund all have volunteering options. Save the Rhino also has the option to get involved with your business, fundraise or partake in events such as the Hackney Half. Ol Pejeta provides the same and more options such as internships, virtual safaris (amazing!) and merchandise. TIP: You can do horse riding and participate in a volunteer program in Zimbabwe, all about rhino and wildlife conservation. If you are interested volunteering in Zimbabwe, make sure to check out this post for all the information and an exclusive discount code! This program is also perfect if you want to bring a non-rider as they offer volunteering projects that don't involve horse riding.

Also read: How to volunteer with horses abroad

Rhino sighting while volunteering in Uganda
Rhino sighting while volunteering in Uganda.

I hope this article has been useful! Please share it with your friends that are passionate about conservation, and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter! Feel free to contact me about opportunities to volunteer with rhinos and if you have any questions.

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