Green hunting is being promoted as “the thrill without the kill” or the big-game hunting experience without killing an animal. It has been promoted internationally, included on web sites: – “Imagine the thrill of tracking, spotting, stalking and hunting the world’s greatest game animals at close range in Africa – lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant and rhinoceros – without killing any of them.”

“Catch-and-release hunting is now possible by converting a high-powered rifle to a tranquiliser dart gun.”

A vita-dart opportunity involves a client shooting the rhino with a dart full of vitamins or other necessary medication. The rhino is only tranquilized by a veterinarian, and, again, only if medically necessary (to draw blood for tests or to treat an injury, for example) or for conservation (such as micro-chipping or relocating the animal). It is a legal activity, requiring a TOPS (Threatened Or Protected Species) permit issued by provincial wildlife authorities.

SCI Record Book & World Hunting Award Committee Chairman, Herb Atkinson, assured SCI members in the October Safari Times that they need not worry about taking a vita-dart hunt as long as all the legal permits are in place. He also announced that the SCI Record Book Committee is accepting vita-darted rhinos for the record book in the “Darted Rhino” category.

If you are considering one of these hunts, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, because the animal can only be tranquilized for medical and conservation purposes, the size of the horn should not be your priority. The rhino you pursue may not be “the big one,” but it will be in need of attention. The vita-dart experience is about the experience of pursuing a rhino. It requires the same effort by hunter and PH as a “green” hunt and is every bit as dangerous.

Rhinoceroses are large, herbivorous mammals identified by their characteristic horned snouts. The word “rhinoceros” comes from the Greek “rhino” (nose) and “ceros” (horn). There are five species and 11 subspecies of rhino; some have two horns, while others have one.

The two species of Rhino in Africa, Black Rhino and White Rhino, do not differ much in colour. The name White Rhino comes from the Dutch word ‘wyd’, which means wide and refers to the mouth which is widened to allow it to graze. The Black Rhino has a hooked lip and is more of a browser.

Diet: Rhinoceroses are herbivores which mean they eat only vegetation. The type of vegetation they eat varies by species. This is because their snouts are different shapes to accommodate different types of food. For example, the black rhino, being a browser, feeds on trees, bushes and herbs. Only when under nutritional stress will it consume grass. Branches and twigs are grabbed with the hooked upper lip, pulled into the mouth, and then sheared off with the molars, and masticated. This ‘pruning’ of bushes allowed ecologists to conduct detailed studies of feeding patterns and preferences. The white rhino has a flat-shaped snout that lets it get closer to the ground for eating grass.

White or Square-lipped Rhinoceros is the third largest land mammal, being massive, stocky, and with a reputation of being not quite as aggressive as the Black Rhino. The name for the White Rhino stemming from the Dutch term ‘wyd’ refers to the square-shaped, wide mouth. This name was thought to be white. White Rhinos have a hump on the neck.

The Black Rhino: There is very little difference in colour between the Black and the White Rhino.  As such this species is smaller than the White Rhino. It can further be distinguished from the White (or square-lipped) Rhino by the pointed upper-lip. Other than the White Rhino, the smaller head is usually held high. The ears are trumpet-like and more rounded. Black rhinos are not actually black, the soil in which it rolls, partly determines the skin colour.

Rhino horns are made of keratin, which is also the key component of human hair and fingernails. But the horns are not just dense clumps of hair. CT scans have shown dense mineral deposits of calcium and melanin in the core of the horn. The calcium makes the horn stronger, and the melanin protects it from the sun’s UV rays, according to scientists at Ohio University.

The horns are similar to horse hooves, turtle beaks and cockatoo bills”, said Tobin Hieronymus, an OU doctoral student. “Rhino horns tend to curve backward, toward the head, because the keratin in front grows faster than the keratin in the back”, Hieronymus told Live Science. The outside of the horn is rather soft and can be worn down or sharpened after years of use. If a horn breaks off, it can gradually grow back.

The rhinos of Africa are in another stage of decimation with the rhino horn trade sky-rocketing, and the price of Rhino Horn becoming more valuable than cocaine.  Because the animals’ horns are used in folk medicine for their supposed healing properties, rhinos have been hunted nearly to extinction. Their horns are sometimes sold as trophies or decorations, but more often they are ground up and used in traditional Chinese medicine. The powder is often added to food or brewed in a tea in the belief that the horns are a powerful aphrodisiac, a hangover cure and treatment for fever, rheumatism, gout and other disorders.

Poachers also value rhino horns for making ornamental dagger handles called jambiyas. This type of handle became a status symbol in Yemen in the 1970s and ’80s, fuelled by the oil boom, when more people could afford luxury items. Jambiyas can be made from precious metal, buffalo hide or plastic, but those made from rhino horn were considered the “Rolex” version.

The trade is not going to stop until the attitudes are changed in the East, despite the ideas of the general public and conservationists.