The scientists stuck a GPS transmitter on top of the sawn-off horn stump, which provided a continuous stream of data for months and did not disturb the animals.
“The side effects of horn cutting include a reduction in black rhino habitats and social interactions between each other,” study author and doctoral student Vanessa Duthe told The Telegraph.
“On average, black rhinos reduced their habitat size by 45 percent and had 37 percent fewer social interactions between each other.
“However, dehorning did not adversely affect survival and natural mortality did not increase as the percentage of rhinos dehorned increased.”
She added that not only did dehorned rhinos have smaller territories after losing their horns, but they also overlapped less with other individuals.
Male-male interactions dropped the most, she said, implying that dehorning could affect social structure, alter dominance patterns and have a direct impact on population and movement management.
“We think rhinos are more avoiding each other and therefore less likely to fight (especially male-male interactions) because they feel vulnerable without their main armament. But this remains to be seen’, Mrs Duthe explained.
“It is important to say that the dehorning is a temporary solution being applied in conjunction with other efforts in an urgent effort to protect the remaining rhinos.
“It is a tool that is readily available to conservationists and may be needed in some cases, but it is vital to continuously monitor the effects of this tool and apply adaptive management.”