Africa

Published 4:39 AM ET, Tue September 20, 2016
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A dehorned rhino roams a field at John Hume's rhino ranch in Klerksdorp, North Western Province, South Africa in February 2016. Keith Somerville, who visited the ranch earlier this year, suggests there is a case for rhino dehorning as a means to prevent illegal poaching. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Hume employs an anti-poaching patrol on his 8,000 hectare ranch to protect his 1,405 rhinos. Starting the ranch in 1992, the millionaire owner has dehorned all of his rhinos. Hume advocates for legalizing the trade of rhino horns and a non-lethal approach to attaining them. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Somerville says he witnessed the dehorning of a large bull rhino. First it was tranquilized, then blinkers were attached to cover the animal's eyes, before ropes were fixed to its back legs. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Measurements are made and a line is drawn around the horn, leaving the horn bed intact so that it can grow back again. A vet is part of the team and monitors the rhino's vital signs. "It was sedated but not unconscious," writes Somerville, "and not obviously alarmed or in any pain." MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Using a battery-driven saw, rangers remove a horn, spraying it with cold water to prevent over-heating and burn injuries. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The horn is collected, along with any shavings or horn dust. Dehorning is practiced on many of South Africa's private ranches and is seen as a way of deterring poachers. In some cases parks and conservancies in Zimbabwe and Namibia have gone down the same route. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A rhino comes out of sedation at Hume's ranch. The team typically dehorns each rhino every 18 months to two years. Hume has bred 951 rhinos over the last 25 years. South Africa has 18,796 white rhinos and 1,916 black rhinos, writes Somerville. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A ranger marks trimmed rhino horns to be weighed and stored in a bank safe or secure depository. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A selection of horns on display at the ranch. Somerville writes that due to a booming demand in China and Vietnam -- where rhino horns are erroneously believed to have medicinal purposes by some people -- horns can fetch $60,000 a kilogram on the black market. Rhino horns are made of keratin -- the same substance as hair and fingernails. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Zimbabwe-born Hume, pictured here in a 2004 file photo, has previously stood behind the South African government in its attempt to acquire 10 hunting licenses for adult bulls. ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
"There is currently a ban on the international trade in rhino horn," writes Somerville. "Hume believes that rhinos in the wild will only be saved through a combination of good security and dehorning, at least on private ranches. A few national parks and reserves want to dehorn and there is a lobby for a regulated and closely monitored legal trade in rhino horn." MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
"This view is strongly opposed by many conservation and animal rights NGOs," he adds, "which means that this approach is unlikely to get sufficient support from governments to end the 39 year old CITES ban on trade." MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A rhino on a ranch in Bela Bela, 150 kilometers north of Johannesburg. This animal had been dehorned by poachers and left for dead, requiring stitches to repair the wound. Some poachers hack beneath the skin and remove the horn bed, leaving rhinos with gaping wounds. MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A man shows off a piece of rhino horn in Hanoi, 2012. From terminal cancer to strokes, rhino horn is seen as a miracle cure-all in Vietnam -- an expensive, medically unproven and illegal obsession that experts say is devastating global rhino populations. STR/AFP/GettyImages
Other ranchers in South Africa have used alternative deterrents. French Damien Vergnaud, pictured here in 2013, hires armed security to protect the rhinos on his private ranch. He also injects the horns with multiple substances: dye, the same as that used in cash-in-transit cases; a substance which renders horns visible on x-ray scanners; and barium, which when ingested causes illness.
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A South African protester holds a sign and a fake rhino horn during a demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, on September 22, 2011. At least 1,338 rhinos were killed last year according to data compiled by one international group. Overall the number of rhinos killed has increased in the last six years, but there was one ray of hope: killings in South Africa decreased for the first time in years. ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images