Tuesday 6 December 2016

Dublin Zoo keeper Ken tells of close call de-horning rhino

Elaine McCahill

Published 16/04/2015 | 12:48

Ken Mackey saves the life of a white rhino in Zimbabwe by de-horning the animal
Ken Mackey saves the life of a white rhino in Zimbabwe by de-horning the animal

One of Dublin Zoo's rhino keepers said travelling to Zimbabwe to partake in conservation work there was an "incredible experience".

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Ken Mackey, who appears on popular RTE series The Zoo, helped to de-horn a southern white rhino in efforts to deter poachers who are decimating the world's rhino population.

"I had taken a few inches off a horn in the zoo environment but never in the wild," Ken told the Herald.

"It is more or less a necessary evil to protect them. You don't want to do it but you have to because the idea is that when they have no horn, it will deter poachers from killing them."

The rhino was sedated while the vets and rangers removed the horn and once it woke up, they had to take refuge in the surrounding trees.

"The revival for the sedation is very quick, we were told to pick a tree and climb up the tree but we didn't look for snakes or scorpions - we were lucky we weren't bitten by anything," he said.

"When we were up the tree, the rhino woke up and the vet's helicopter took off - which is meant to drive the rhino away from us - but the tree started to bend and the rhino was at my feet - the adrenaline was really pumping then," he added.

While Ken - who has worked at Dublin Zoo for 22 years - enjoyed his trip, there were also a number of sad moments.

"Unfortunately, we came across a female rhino who had been killed which really does pull at the heart strings," he sad.

"She had a calf who was a week old and they cut her horn off but luckily the calf ran into the bush and rangers found her and she was hand-raised."

Ken also explained that rhinos could be wiped out due to poaching.

"The southern white rhino has a cousin called the northern white rhino.

"There are only five left in the world and the last male is under 24 hour guard in Sudan," he added.

The Zoo airs tonight on RTE One at 7pm

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