The Lewa Wildlife and Security departments set out to ear notch black and white rhinos in June. Ear notching is essential in rhino monitoring primarily for their safety as it ensures that the rangers accurately identify and report on rhino sightings on a daily basis. For research, it is most critical for accurate data collection.
Lewa currently has a population of 125 rhinos of which 67 are black and 58 are white. Most rhinos have been ear notched, but over time the population has grown and more rhinos have now come of age. In addition, some rhinos had been brought in from other conservancies. It was therefore becoming rather difficult to identify them. So far eight black rhinos and four white rhinos have been ear notched out of a targeted 11 black rhinos and 6 white rhinos.
The rhinos are first tracked and their locations confirmed. If they are in a location that is accessible and considered safe for the exercise, the team quickly makes their way to the rhino using land cruisers, while the CEO Mike Watson provides aerial support.
On the ground, once the team gets close to the rhino, the Vet prepares the dart and is accompanied by two to three rangers on foot to get as close as possible to dart the rhino. They constantly communicate via radio with aerial support and other rangers on higher ground to figure out how best to approach the rhino. Once it is darted and immobilised, the rest of the team rushes to the rhino and the notching is usually done in five to ten minutes.
An antidote is then administered to the rhino, after which the animal gets up and in most cases wanders off. On some occasions, the rhinos have charged at the team in their vehicles, chasing us out of their territory!