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Looking after rhinos during lockdown

Suzette Boshoff is black rhino and elephant monitor on a game reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The reserve on which Suzette works is a partner site of WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project which aims to increase numbers of the critically endangered black rhino by creating new populations on large areas of land. Pam Sherriffs spoke to her about her lockdown experience.

© Suzette Boshoff
Suzette Boshoff works on a reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Monitoring became really challenging because a lot of the rangers went home to be with their families. I realized the importance of constant information and sightings from the field. Having fewer feet on the ground made a huge impact and showed the importance of rangers as data collectors, researchers, teachers and translators of the bush.
During lockdown, I began to do a lot more on-the-ground monitoring. The abundance of sightings was amazing, especially regarding social behavior. I saw a family of five black rhino together. It was beautiful to see.
The black rhino “family” consisted of a mother with a one-year old calf, a three-year old calf and two older brothers. “The two older brothers are famous for sticking together. To see the interaction of the baby calf with the big brothers was fantastic. She was full of beans though they weren’t that into her. When they were disturbed, they all moved away as a unit. It’s so much what people don’t think black rhino do. This specific female has a strong bond also with her siblings. Her name is Lungile, which means everything is right in Zulu.

© Suzette Boshoff
Suzette kept going with the monitoring work during lockdown because she felt it was important.

The reserve has excellent data on our black rhinos and WWF’s work on black rhino genetics also helps us to know “who’s who in the zoo. Camera-trapping is also a crucial part of data-collection.
I stayed during lockdown because I fell in love with black rhinos when I started working here and I wanted to make sure the rhinos were alright.
It’s larger than money. It’s amazing to have seen the character that has stepped up during tough times. There are so many people who aren’t getting any financial reward but they know what needs to be done.
You just get up and do it.

© Black Rhino Range Expansion Project
WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project aims to increase numbers of critically endangered black rhino.
Pamela Sherriffs Photo
Pamela Sherriffs, Communication manager: Black Rhino Range Expansion Project

Pam Sherriffs has been with the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project since its inception.

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