How we track our rhino population
Understanding the dynamics of our rhino populations is the first step towards informed, science-based management. To accomplish this, detailed information at the individual level is required, something which is only possible if every animal can be identified. Individual identification is achieved through ear notching. Rhino calves generally leave their mothers at about two years old and it is important to mark them before this so that maternal histories can be traced. Every year unmarked rhino calves over 13 months old are selected, located, and darted with a tranquiliser from a helicopter. Once immobilised they are given a unique ear notch pattern that will identify them for the rest of their lives. The position of the notches on the ears translates into a numbering system that enables scouts and wildlife managers to monitor each rhino’s movements, behaviour, and for the females, reproductive success. While the calf is anaesthetised, body measurements are taken, and DNA samples collected.