The greatest threat to rhinoceroses is the poaching they face for their horns. From January 2006 to April 2016, South Africa lost at least 5,460 southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) to poaching. In response to this crisis more and more wildlife managers are humanely removing the horns of their rhino in a process known as dehorning. Yet few studies have investigated whether dehorning has an impact on the white rhinoceros. My study seeks to address this knowledge gap by determining whether white rhino exhibit an observable physiological or behavioural response to dehorning, specifically whether it induces changes in stress and distress, sociality or non-social horn function. It is hoped that evidence-based biological data genereated by this project will help policy makers assess and validate the procedure, as well as providing practical instruction for wildlife managers.
Additionally, I conduct research into novel conservation techniques that aim to reduce poaching risk to rhinoceros. This research seeks to apply theory from human-wildlife conflict mitigation to a new a type of conservation context. Deterrent experiments, focusing on olfactory, acoustic and UAV disturbance techniques are evaluated for their ability to manipulate rhinoceros movement from areas of high poaching risk to areas with a lower poaching threat. This research utilises the help of groups of citizen scientists who assist in data collection in the field throughout the year, co-ordinated by the Earthwatch Institute.