WARNING: Contains distressing imagery of dehorned rhinos
With international borders beginning to open after the Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions, the South African government has warned of a resurgence in rhino poaching.
Game reserves around the country are preparing for an influx of hunters, so in a bid to protect the endangered species, conservationists have dehorned hundreds of the animals across a number of game reserves in the province of the North West - to make them less appealing to poachers.
In order to track the rhinos, the conservationists need two helicopters, as well as several teams of people on the ground.
The animals are then tranquilised - while they are sedated, the conservationists remove their horns.
Rhino horns are very valuable to poachers, who kill the animals and sell their horns for incredibly high prices on the black market - often to be used as part of traditional Asian medicines, although some also use them as symbols of success and wealth.
Sadly, dehorning the creatures is seen as one of their only chances of survival.
Nico Jacobs is the founder of Rhino 911. The organisation aims to help with the conservation of rhinos in the area. They hunt them down and cut off their horns to save their lives.
Jacobs said: "As soon as the lockdown hit South Africa, we started having incursions almost every day."
While Dr Lynne MacTavish of the Mankwe Wildlife Reserve has dedicated her life to saving the rhinos.
She explained that she never considered dehorning the animals, until one day in 2014.
Dr MacTavish said that one of her female rhinos had been 'poached in the most brutal way'. From then on she decided that dehorning may be the best way of saving their dwindling numbers.
For security reasons, the authorities could not provide the exact number of animals already dehorned, however rhinos could well be extinct in the wild in the next decade if they continue to decline at the current rate.
According to WWF, the number of rhinos poached in South Africa alone has 'has increased by 9,000% since 2007 - from 13 to a record 1,215 in 2014'.
The conservation charity says that there has been a huge surge in demand for the horn of the rhinos in Asia, stating that it's primarily sought after in Vietnam.
The charity's website states: "Powdered horn is used in traditional Asian medicine as a supposed cure for a range of illnesses - from hangovers to fevers and even cancer."Featured Image Credit: Newsflash