The issue of rhino vitamin-dart "hunts" in South Africa continues to concern hunters interested in this species, as evidenced by two recent articles published in Safari Times, Safari Club International's monthly membership publication. The articles addressed member concerns about the legality of "green" and vita-dart rhino hunts. Continuing subscribers will recall my January 2011 warning that new regulations had effectively barred the tranquilizing of rhinos for non-medical or non-conservation purposes, making green hunts illegal for that species. I also told you about the vita-dart opportunity then newly introduced by Irvin Tam of Tam Safaris (www.tamsafaris.com; 011-27-48-881 1498). (See Article 2584 in our online database.) Tam's method, which (as I predicted in 2011) is now used by numerous operators, 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 now 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. You might say it is more dangerous than a regular........(continued)