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Veterinary support and rhino orphan care

Veterinary Services: Kruger National Park and Ezemvelo

The Rhino Protection Programme provides the means to strengthen the capacity of key wildlife veterinary teams in Kruger National Park and Ezemvelo, to enable them to treat the rhino that survive brutal attacks by poachers, as well as provide resources for the rescue, care, rehabilitation and release of the ever-increasing number of rhino orphans. This includes providing emergency response (helicopters/trucks/equipment), medical supplies and food. The latter has been especially challenging in the current drought, which has had a major impact on the cost of lucerne and milk. In addition, research into best practices for rhino orphan nurturing and rehabilitation is supported. At any given time, there are approximately 10-15 rhino orphans being cared for by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and 20-30 rhino orphans in the care of Kruger National Park. Whereas at the start of the current rhino poaching crisis, rhino orphan care was regarded as only a small sub-section of rhino counter-poaching efforts, it has now become one of the primary focus areas of conservation agencies – recognised as a component that is vital to long-term rhino re-population efforts.

The resources provided by the Rhino Protection Programme also assist veterinary staff in processing crime scenes for the purposes of DNA processing, evidence collection, forensic analysis and veterinary research.

Rhino DNA database

The collection and management of rhino DNA samples – specifically for criminal tracing and prosecution purposes - is an essential service provided by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the Department of Veterinary Sciences of the University of Pretoria, which maintains the national rhino DNA database (RhODIS). The Rhino Protection Programme has provided funding to support the development of the eRhODIS application, intended to simplify the collection of DNA data from the field for real-time input to RhODIS, as well as for the training of veterinarians, investigation officers and members of the South African Police Force in the use of the application and device. Thanks to Rhino Protection Programme’s support, a backlog of 2 000 DNA samples has aready been cleared.

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