We got up early this morning because we were invited by South Africa National Parks to watch as they located black rhinos (via helicopter) to immobilize them for ear notching. Each rhino in Addo Elephant National Park is darted around 3–5 years of age and given a name and specific pattern of ear notches that can be used to identify individuals on photographs taken by camera traps. Rhinos can also be positively identified by other anatomical features, such as their horn and scars on their bodies.
It is so important to mark the rhino by this age so that the individual is known before he or she disperses from its mother. If the rhino isn’t marked, we aren’t able to know its identity.
The experience was amazing. We waited nearby in trucks watching the helicopter circle around the park in search of the elusive rhinos. The thicket is so dense that it’s difficult to even to find elephant. They located two individuals that needed to be ear notched. We were able to watch one during the procedure. The park staff acted quickly and successfully marked this young male (who quickly and safely recovered).