SOURCE TO DEMAND: RHINOCEROS HORN
Over the past year I’ve been solely focused on capturing rhinoceros horn in its many forms:
from source sites in Africa to demand sites in Asia.
This body of work comprising 10-images, is to be viewed as a series, however the images have been used “out-of-series” by various publications around the globe (Australia, South Africa and the UK) as they all carry a powerful message of the slaughter happening to our wild and captive-bred rhinos. As a collection... humans, or their handiwork... can be seen in every image.
And that’s the story here, human protection and care for the animal, but ultimately the desire and demand for product.
Information on each image can be found by clicking on it, as well as a link to the article where it was published.
NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK
FOUR DAYS OLD
This cow and calf combination fetched well over half a million rand at the world famous Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Auction last year where nearly 40-rhinos were sold at an average price of R390,000. When the hammer fell, an agent representing a private rhino owner on the phone was the winner (their name was withheld for security reasons). Many game buyers buy at this auction to better their stock from the rich genetic history of the organization’s rhinos from the Hluhluwe and iMfolozi reserves. However due to the devastation in those reserves from the recent record breaking poaching levels, this year’s auction offered no rhinos from HiP.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II; 70-200mm f2.8 II lens; 1/45 sec at f4; ISO 2000 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
“Needle in a Haystack”
The municipal reserve of Rietvlei in Pretoria has had two rhino poachings in one year. At this first one, a team of forensic investigators from SAPS and the Department of Environmental Affairs cut away at the carcass for hours before metal detectors picked up the faint trace of a bullet. It was an hour later of cracking ribs and cutting through layers of intestines before the bullet was found. At first sight the policeman holding the bullet told me the calibre was a .375 hunting round. It will be confirmed at the lab and tested to find out which gun fired the bullet which could link this crime scene to others around the country.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II; 11-16mm f2.8 lens; 1/90 sec at f10; ISO 200 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
This rhino cow was pregnant when she was poached, along with 8 others in one night on a farm just outside Kimberley in the Northern Cape. Her owner, Pieter Els had been hopeful she was carrying and it was confirmed when the police performed a post-mortem on the carcass. They pulled out a foetus close to term, which now lies in a mangled mass just next to her. Heartbroken, Els has sold all his remaining living rhinos.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV; 16-35mm f2.8 III lens; 1/800 sec at f3.2; ISO 100 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
“Fighting off the Speculators”
While showing me one of his 9 poached rhinos, farmer Pieter Els kept fielding phone calls. I normally wouldn’t take a photo of this, but the calls were relentless. They were calls of sympathy masking the real reason for the call... other rhino owners calling to ask if they could buy Els’s remaining, living rhinos. After a poaching on a farm or private game reserve, “rhino speculators” call in to buy at a much reduced price.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II; 11-16mm f2.8 lens; 1/90 sec at f11; ISO 200 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
For 16-months I had the privilege of documenting the many facial repair surgeries of famous rhino poaching survivor “Hope”. I have seen a few rhino poaching survivors but Hope somehow captured the world’s heart... and mine. Found three days after her poaching, almost all of her upper face had been hacked out, narrowly missing her left eye. Her sinus cavities brutally exposed, she had to have routine operations to clean out infection and maggots. The organization Saving The Survivors used plastic surgery techniques pulling her remaining skin closer together in an effort to try to close her wound. The results were remarkable and skin from her right side had moved over most of the wound. We will never know the pain she went through but it must’ve been tremendous. She was well known for her feisty behaviour and even under anesthetic and a facial nerve block, she would sometimes stand up mid-operation causing all of us to run for cover. It was easy to always take a photo of her gaping wound, but I wanted to focus here on her, Hope. And I always knew that under her eye-covers and despite her anesthetic drugs, she was fully alert. This was one of the last photographs I took of Hope before she died of an infection.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II; 17-55mm f2.8 lens; 1/60 sec at f2.8; ISO 400 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
Many NGOs raise funds for rhino horn demand reduction campaigns in Vietnam and this is a poster from one of them. In fact in all the time I was in South East Asia, this was the only one I ever saw, despite claims that there are hundreds of posters plastered all over the region. This busy intersection next to Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the middle of Hanoi’s Old Quarter wouldn’t get many eyeballs on to the poster as the intersection is lined with trees and the view of the lake opposite.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II; 17-55mm f2.8 lens; 1/45 sec at f19; ISO 400 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
A seized rhino horn from OR Tambo International is being measured and its DNA extracted for court. The rhino horn trafficker who was carrying this in his luggage, languishes in the Kempton Park jail cells while DNA tests are done to see if there is a link to any crime scenes in southern Africa. In this case, the horn tested positive to a crime scene in KZN’s iMfolozi Game Reserve, where three rhino cows were slaughtered by poachers during a full moon leaving behind an orphan. This linkage will strengthen the NPA’s case against the Chinese trafficker. Dr Cindy Harper and her team at Onderstepoort’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory have provided vital evidence for many court cases throughout South Africa.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II; 11-16mm f2.8 lens; 1/90 sec at f3.5; ISO 2000 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
“Four Days Old”
Weak, severely dehydrated and close to death when she came in… little rhino calf Makhosi has finally latched to the bottle two-days later. She now seems to be having no problems drinking her milk at the tender age of four-days old! Makhosi still has some of her “slippers” on from the womb, seen clearly here on her back feet. In the womb, rhino foetuses develop soft, fluffy skin around the bottom of their hooves. It is thought this prevents the fluid-filled birth sac from tearing open when the unborn animals kick in the womb. In the wild, they lose their “slippers” shortly after birth in the painful process of running next to their mother.
World famous orphan rehabilitator, Karen Trendler, hardly slept during the 48-hours she nursed Makhoksi. This mealtime was a relief for both of them and they fell asleep shortly afterwards!
Canon EOS 7D Mark II; 17-55mm f2.8 lens; 1/60 sec at f2.8; ISO 2000 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
Shooting undercover is nerve-wracking. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! With hidden spy cameras and GoPros, myself and wildlife television presenter Bonné de Bod managed to infiltrate villages selling wildlife products in Vietnam. Wearing buffalo horn and ivory jewelry supplied by activist organisations, we posed as wealthy tourists interested in “natural products” which in South East Asia is expensive and therefore symbolizes your rank or status in society. The sellers were very excited to present their most expensive item they had on sale and it came out at the end of our “looking”: rhino horn in the form of an arm bangle. Made for wealthy Chinese tourists this bangle was far too small, and wouldn’t get past Bonné’s knuckles even though the sellers tried to force it through!
GoPro HERO3+ Black; 1/25 sec; ISO 800 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
Any orphaned rhino is precious, but somehow these little black rhino orphans seem more so. Especially when you listen to them gurgling and moaning in appreciation while drinking warm milk at 2am under infra-red heat lamps in the middle of winter! Larger “Nandi” is the same age as the bull calf “Storm”. He had a particularly traumatic time surviving next to his dead mother’s carcass and had severe dehydration when he came in. Compounded by milk allergies, he nearly didn’t make it. As one of only a few thousand black rhinos remaining, little Storm’s fight to survive is a celebration. Both he and Nandi have been successfully rewilded back into the reserve where they lost their mothers. The aim of every animal rehabilitator. One can only hope they escape the fate of their mothers.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II; 17-55mm f2.8 lens; 1/45 sec at f2.8; ISO 3200 -- LINK TO ARTICLE WHERE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED
ALL IMAGES © Susan Scott