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Back to Africa Directors Dr Joel Alves & Dr Ben Muller were extremely fortunate to be invited to assist the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife team with the landmark dehorning of their white and black rhino populations in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve. Following unprecedented poaching losses and an unwavering tide of poaching pressure on the reserve, one of the strongholds of the critically endangered black rhino, it became apparent that dehorning was the only feasible next step to take in an effort to stem the loss of rhino. 

The scale of the project was enormous, involving multiple veterinary and ground teams, two Robinson 44 helicopters and an AS350 B3 helicopter. The funding of the operation and support of EKZN Wildlife was made possible by WWF as well as veterinary support through African Wildlife Vets. 

Thanks to Back to Africa donors, Wild Wonderful World, Morna Retreats and the Council of Contributors, the services of Ben and Joel were covered for the operation. 

Across the 8-week period, the teams successfully dehorned 950 white and black rhinos in an immense effort that we can only hope will have a positive effect on curbing the poaching scourge. 

It was a great privilege working in a landscape steeped in history and the original home of most of Africa’s rhino following their recovery, which was architected by Dr Ian Player. Even more so, working alongside close friends, colleagues and EKZNW heroes in Dr Rowan Leeming, JP (Bej) van Heerden, Dennie Kelly and Dumisane Zwane, to name but a few, was a memorable experience and we take our hats off to the amazing work they and their teams are doing in protecting our rhinos, in the face of insurmountable odds. 

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