During the month of June, the Mara Veterinary Unit participated in an important excercise, the Ear-notching of Black Rhinos in the Masai Mara National Reserve
During the month of June, the Mara Veterinary Unit participated in an important excercise, the Ear-notching of Black Rhinos in the Masai Mara National Reserve. Ear-nottching in Rhinos is a management tool which is meant to assist monitoring and security patrol teams to easily identify individual animals and document their progress and movements within their territories. Some candidates were also to be fitted with a radio transmitter to monitor their movements since some have been noted to wander far and wide outside the protected areas.
The exercise had been planned earlier in the year but the heavy rains that were pounding the country at the time hampered the exercise. June was chosen as the most appropriate time because the heavy rains had subsided, tourism activities in the Mara at the time are low, and most candidates for the exercise would most probably be found within their territories due to the minimal disturbances.
Two days of traveling and setting up of the capture camp had been set aside and on the third day the exercise commenced and went on for the next five days with a total of seven rhinos being located, darted, ear notched and/ or radio fitted. Some rhinows could not be darted because they had very young calves and darting and handling them would jeopardize the lives of their calves. Two other male candidates could not be located within the days allocated for the activity and only resurfaced later.
The fitting of the radio transmitter on the Rhino horns on some candidates was necessitated by the fact that some particular animals were wandering far too wide outside the protected reserve due to a number of suspected factors such as;
- Cattle incursions into the Reserve during droughts displace some individuals from their marked territories.
- Numerous vehicle tracks in the rhino territory may cause too much discomfort and eventual abandonment of their territory.
- The frequently recurring droughts force some to wander off in search of browse and water.
The exercise was regarded as a success because there was zero mortality and the target number was ten. Since the Mara rhino population is one of the few free ranging populations remaining in Kenya, it was generally agreed that there is need to aggressively monitor, conserve and protect it for future generations and posterity. Once again the Mara vet unit takes this opportunity to thank all who have made it possible for this team to continue with its all important work, thank you all.
By Felix Micheni- Mara Vet Unit
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