“Ear piercing” a Rhino!
Notching is becoming a huge part in Rhino conservation. As a result, nearly all Rhinos in South Africa are “notched”. Notching is a way of identifying each individual animal.
Veterinarians do this by removing a small triangle or circle of skin from the Rhino’s ear. The veterinarians do not waste this skin, they use the skin for genetic analysis in order to monitor breeding. This is relatively painless – almost like ear piercing done in humans!
After notching is complete, veterinarians place potassium permanganate granules over the open wound to assist with clotting. The ear tissue sample which is collected is covered in salt and placed in a special container, and later sent to a biobank.
The veterinarians further analyse the immobilised Rhino by collecting other vital samples, including blood and horn samples.
Next, the veterinarians microchip the animal. They carefully insert a microchip into the horn of the Rhino by drilling a little hole and then filling it up again. Similarly, the veterinarians inject a second microchip under the skin with a simple injection. These microchips correspond with each other so that if we come across the horn we can relate it to the animal it came from.
Notching helps to provide important information for the identification of Rhinos. The pattern of each notched ear sample is recorded for quick visual recognition in the bush. The other samples are analysed and interpreted by a DNA specialist, after which it is stored on a national database. This is vital, as it records familial structures and genders, which are essential for the genetic and reproductive management of Rhinos within reserves. It also helps to prevent inbreeding and thereby aids in making a responsible decision regarding the relocation of Rhinos and the development of new breeding populations.
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