National Geographic : 2012 Mar
• fundamental di erence is that poachers go a er rhino horn for easy short-term pro t. Farmers are in it for years of steady returns." Some of the resistance, he fears, is a cultural disconnect. "We basically are telling the Viet- namese that it is ne to kill an animal because our tradition of cutting a rhino's head o and putting it on a wall as a decoration is acceptable, but your tradition of cutting o its horn to use for medicine is abominable." AFTER PATROLLING ALL NIGHT with no sign of the poachers, Damien organized a search for the rhinos. A cold rain fell, and mist lled the forests and valleys as the rangers walked in lines look- ing for blood or a carcass in the undergrowth. As of midday, Basta and her calf were still missing. As Damien drove to check the rhinos' preferred feeding areas, he described how his days in Iraq protecting UN convoys gave him special insight into what animals face from poachers. "We got hit by IEDs a few times, and I lost some mates," he said quietly. "I know what it's like to be hunted by humans." Once he le the military, he was looking for a new life and realized his experience training Iraqi police recruits to take control of their cha- otic country matched perfectly with Zimbabwe's chaotic wilderness areas, where game rangers are o en ill equipped, poorly paid, and bribed by poachers. He used money saved from his tours in Iraq to found the International Anti Poach- ing Foundation, which trains, equips, and places game rangers in public and private reserves in Zimbabwe for free. He recruits candidates from the poorest communities because that is where A veterinarian cuts the horns from an anesthetized white rhino cow (left) at a game farm in North-West Province, South Africa, leaving it to wake up in a field (right). The procedure takes about 20 minutes. Composed of keratin---the protein that is the basis for wool, feathers, beaks, and hooves---the two horns Cutting off the horn to save the rhino grow back in about two years. Some critics of the practice say it leaves the animals unprotected against natural predators. Dehorn- ing advocates argue that the absence of horns deters poachers and reduces the number of rhinos that die of wounds from fights over territory and mates. "An adult rhino packs such an awesome punch, even with a stub of a horn," says South African game farmer John Hume. "A lion is unlikely to tangle with one, horn or no horn."