SANParks deploys decoy rhinos in Kruger National Park


Fed up with relentless poaching in its flagship national park, South African National Parks (SANParks) has today unveiled a new weapon in the fight against poachers – decoy rhinos.

Hundreds of decoy rhinos are being ‘deployed’ across the 19 600 square kilometre Kruger National Park (KNP), at a cost of R10 000 per decoy. “When you consider the fact that the price of a rhino horn is up to $20 000 per kilogram, this is a bargain and will be instrumental in saving the lives of our diminishing wild rhinos,” said Glen Flathead, KNP Managing Executor during the project’s launch in Skukuza.

Last year, the Kruger National Park lost 209 rhinos to poachers. The demand for horn has soared since the COVID-19 pandemic began as supply chain problems make it difficult for people to buy Viagra and hangover cures, forcing them to turn to traditional medicines like rhino horn, even though it’s never been proved that rhino horn has any medical benefits.

Explaining how the decoy rhinos work, Flathead said they are manufactured from rubber and fibreglass and have several moving parts to simulate natural movement, including a tail that can swat off flies, ears that twitch and a head that moves from side to side.

“The poachers will never be able to tell the difference between our decoys and the real thing, unless the real thing is charging them,” Flathead said. “So they will be wasting their bullets on the decoys. Inside every fake rhino is a shot detection system and an alarm, so when a gunshot is heard, the GPS position of the decoy is automatically sent to head office and we can then deploy a counter-poaching team.”

When defenceWeb asked Flathead how he came up with the idea for the decoys, he explained that he was watching the nature lover’s classic movie ‘Ace Venture: When Nature Calls’ and inspiration struck after seeing Jim Carey spying on the ‘bad guys’ inside a fake rhino.

Should the project be successful, SANParks aims to create decoys of other animals, including elephants, leopards, lions and tyrannosaurs.

PS Happy April Fool’s.