Singita’s Rhino Horn Treatment Program

June 24, 2013  By: Gretchen

Many safari lodges have a philanthropic ethic, and to that end, they engage in community and wildlife projects. Guests can learn about some efforts during a stay, and some things go on behind the scenes. One such effort we are excited about is aimed at rhino preservation. Singita is one of the lodges spearheading this new ‘treatment’ aimed at reducing the number of rhinos killed for their horns. Their luxury lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania are among our favorites. We recently learned more about this initiative from our friends at Singita. They are not the only lodge in Sabi Sand trying this method – Sabi Sabi is as well, and we expect that its use will continue to grow.

The plight of the critically endangered rhino population is one of the more heartbreaking realities of life in Southern and East Africa. Singita is proud to be a part of a number of projects aimed at eliminating the poaching of these majestic animals for their horns, including the Rhino Reintroduction Programme at Singita Pamushana Lodge (Zimbabwe) and the anti-poaching unit at Singita Sabi Sand (South Africa) which uses specially-trained tracker dogs to deter and catch would-be poachers.

As part of these ongoing efforts, Singita is now participating in a horn infusion treatment program, which was pioneered by the Rhino Rescue Project in the Sabi Sand. The horn is treated by infusing it with a compound made up of an anti-parasitic drug and indelible dye that contaminates the horn and renders it useless for ornamental or medicinal use. A full DNA sample is harvested and three matching identification microchips are inserted into the horns and the animal itself.

This treatment  has resulted in zero losses in areas where it has been applied, and is seen as an important intervention to deflect prospective poachers. Over 100 rhino have already been treated in the reserve and all animals in the initial treatment sample are in excellent health. Since all the products used in the treatment are biodegradable and eco-friendly, there are no long-term effects on the environment. The treatment “grows” out with the horn and so poses no long-term effect and, if a treated animal dies of natural causes, retrieval and registration of the horn is a legal requirement.