Local School Children Join Rhino Horn Infusion at the Ant’s Collection

Thanks to collaboration with the Ants Collection and the Rhino Rescue Project, 12 local school children experienced a lesson of a life time in April.

“I had been invited by the Waterberg Nature Conservancy to present on Environmental Education in the Waterberg region,” says Moji Kitsi, Welgevonden Environmental Awareness Programme (WEAP) Coordinator. “It was during my presentation that I received a call from the manager of Ant’s Hill.”

Moji Kitsi presenting on Environmental Education in the Waterberg

The Ants Nest and Hill Collection had scheduled a rhino horn infusion intervention for 07:00 am the next morning, and the programme collaborators had called Moji to invite a group of school children to join the event.

“It was admittedly quite a last minute affair, but I managed to get hold of the principal from Mokolo Primary School who scrambled together 12 children,” says Moji.

The group arrived at Ant’s Nest early the next morning after a muddy drive through the last of the summer downpour. Thankfully, the rain later subsided.

“Almost as if exclusively for the intervention,” says Moji.

Tessa Baber, founder of Save the Waterberg Rhino, warmly greets the children upon their arrival

The first horn infusion was already underway by the time the group arrived, and the children quickly clambered off the game viewing vehicle and joined the operation where they were allowed to feel the rhino’s skin, ears, nose etc, and interact with members from the Rhino Rescue Project, veterinarians, and guides and lodge managers from the Ant’s collection.

Children were asked “how tall do you think a rhino is?”

The procedure, facilitated by the Rhino Rescue Project, is a proactive approach to anti-rhino poaching, devaluing the horn through contamination with a compound constituting of ectoparasiticides and inedible dye.

Movement-of-liquids-in-horn; photograph taken by Rhino Rescue Project

Ectoparasiticides are not intended for consumption by humans, and symptoms of ingestion may include severe nausea, vomiting and convulsions.

The infusion process lasts between 10-15 minutes and is conducted under very high pressure. A non-return valve prevents the liquids from exiting through the drill holes and keeps the liquid inside the horn for up to 10 days, ensuring that the liquid penetrates large areas of the internal horn structure.

Probe-placements; photograph taken by Rhino Rescue Project

Close up of the non-return-valve; photograph taken by Rhino Rescue Project

The horn treatment remains effective for up to four years.

While the compound may be toxic to humans, it is eco-friendly, biodegradable, ox-pecker friendly and vulture safe, and has no adverse effects on the environment.

The children went on to participate in one more infusion before returning back to school.

“Rhino-poaching awareness is so often rooted in horror and gore. This experience on the other hand, showed the children how many entities from different facets of conservation are committed to anti-rhino poaching, and how, when working together, these entities can help “armour” rhino against the scourge of poaching.

If that’s not a message that will motivate young people to help conserve the environment, then I am not sure what is,” says Moji.

Children stand in front of the decorated Quantum vehicle, sponsored by the Albert Wessels Trust

WEAP, sponsored by the Albert Wessels Trust, was initiated in 2018 and, through collaboration with various conservation establishments, is transforming communities and empowering underprivileged youth in the Waterberg Region of the Limpopo Province.