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This World Rhino Day, WWF pays tribute to all the men and women working to save our rhinos.
These rhino heroes range from rhino monitors acting at community level to safeguard rhinos on the ground to committed conservationists working to increase rhino populations through projects such as WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.
According to official statistics, some 6 680 rhinos have been poached across South Africa, home to 80% of Africa’s rhino population, since the poaching crisis was reignited in 2006 (this figure includes the July 2017 figure supplied by the South African government).
Sadly, it seems likely that 2017 will once again exceed the 1000 poaching mark for rhinos for the fifth year in a row. In addition, poachers are now shifting their attention to vulnerable populations in KwaZulu-Natal, and elsewhere in the country beyond the Kruger National Park.
“Since the upsurge of the rhino poaching crisis just over a decade ago, which has lost us nearly 7 000 rhinos to date, many people have been defending our animals and parks at great personal cost,” said Dr Jo Shaw, Senior Manager for the Wildlife Programme with WWF South Africa.
“As we celebrate World Rhino Day today we would like to acknowledge all those whose efforts are aimed at ensuring that rhinos will continue to thrive in our wild spaces. It takes a wide range of committed people to make rhino conservation happen – from rangers, to veterinarians, to customs officials, to scientists, to prosecutors, to communicators and many more – we’d like to thank everyone who continues to dedicate themselves to the cause."
This range of skills is vital because, in our view, this is a long-term challenge which requires a holistic approach to address the complex issues driving rhino poaching and the illegal trade in horn. At its heart this approach should take into account the socio-economic needs of people living closest to wildlife.
"We know that other countries across Africa, such as Zimbabwe, have brought rhino poaching under control in the past, and that rhinos show remarkable recovery where they are well-managed and well-secured within good habitat. Globally, we need to see similar commitment from other key players in the transit and consumer countries towards addressing the demand for illegal horn and illicit supply routes from Africa to Asia. We owe it to the hardworking heroes on the ground to match their efforts," Dr Shaw said.
As part of its contribution to rhino conservation, WWF South Africa oversees several projects to secure rhino populations, among them:
- The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) which was initiated in 2003 to grow populations of black rhino in South Africa by establishing new breeding populations. This project has helped to grow the black rhino population in the KwaZulu-Natal stronghold by 21%;
- The Black Rhino Guardian Project in the Kruger National Park which is providing scientific support for research into black rhino with the view to better biological monitoring and security;
- Creating a Canine Training Centre at the Southern African Wildlife College to train field rangers as dog handlers and develop free tracking and incursion dogs for anti-poaching activities;
- Providing equipment for a range of rhino reserves across the threatened KwaZulu-Natal province and upgrade of a helipad to enable night flight capabilities;
- Supporting the Rural Initiative for a Sustainable Environment (RISE) at the Southern African Wildlife College, to assist local communities living in proximity with wildlife
- Working with the Mangalane community and our partners Sabie Game Park on the eastern border of the Kruger National Park in Mozambique, to bring benefits from wildlife back to the villages
- Developing training materials for enforcement officials from a range of agencies in addressing wildlife trafficking, in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs, thanks to support from the US State Department, INL.
- Supporting WWF Mozambique in the provision of training and exchange opportunities for those involved in prosecuting wildlife offenses under the new Conservation Areas law.