What do rhino monitoring officers do?

KNOW THE AREA

The rhino monitors know a vast area of 3,000 km sq incredibly well. They have a map of the local area in their heads featuring every landmark, tree and water body. They even know where the best grass and browse is for the rhinos.

KNOW THE RHINOS

They know all the rhinos in their area as individuals. They know their histories and personalities, and understand each one’s movements and preferences.

MONITOR RHINO ACTIVITY

They record what the rhinos are eating and where, their monthly and seasonal feeding patterns, and whether they are socialising or mating with other rhinos. This helps us to predict when calves are due.

FIND THE RHINOS

The monitoring teams are highly trained and able to find the rhinos through skilful tracking and bush craft. That doesn’t mean the rhinos make their job easy – they often rest up on densely vegetated islands during the heat of the day and are very hard to find.

SPOT THE SIGNS

They study the female rhinos’ behaviour closely to identify when there is a new arrival. A new calf, especially a female, is an important addition to the breeding population.

FILE DAILY REPORTS

With each rhino sighting, the officers fill out a data sheet about the body condition (which ranges from 5 for ‘fat’ to 1 for ‘of concern’) and behaviour of the individual.

WATCH OUT FOR FIGHTS

They keep an eye on fighting between rhino bulls, since there’s a chance of injury or even death, especially between two big, evenly matched individuals. By knowing where each established bull’s territory is located, we can avoid introducing any new bulls to the same area and thus decrease the risk of conflict.

TAKE TO THE SKIES

Every few days, our pilot undertakes an aerial surveillance flight to locate rhinos in difficult to access terrain and ensure that the rhinos haven’t wandered off too far. They also look for any suspicious signs that might indicate poaching in the area.

STUDY SPECIES INTERACTIONS

The rhino monitors also study the relationships between rhinos and other herbivores, such as zebras, and predators, such as lions and hyenas. It’s important to understand how the presence of predators impacts on the rhinos, and if large numbers pose a threat to calves.

SPREAD THE WORD

The monitoring teams take pride in what they do and help to spread the word about conservation. They visit local communities and talk to them them about the rhinos and how important they are for the country and the economy. They warn them about poachers and the government’s hard line on poaching.