Every 8 hours, another rhino is killed in South Africa… and the number is growing...
Below is the latest overview of the work of The Wilderness Foundation with rhino and under the Forever Wild banner. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve supports The Wilderness Foundation's Forever Wild Campaign through our Protect & Save Offer. With assistance from our guests, Shamwari Group has been able to raise over R7 million to help the campaign so far.
The rhino poaching crisis (as well as other wildlife crime) is of national and international significance and affects all levels of society. Wildlife crime is the fifth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $10 billion annually. The Wilderness Foundation recognizes this and is working in partnership with various organisations to address this issue.
Until 1970 rhino populations worldwide were relatively stable with minimal poaching incidents. Subsequently with the oil price soaring and per capita income in the Yemen increasing seven-fold, elaborately carved rhino-horn dagger handles became a prized symbol of status and wealth. Within a single decade, half the world's rhino population had disappeared, and all of the rhino species were either threatened with extinction or endangered.
Since then, thanks to various conservation efforts and improved security measures, the black rhino and white rhino populations have increased. But these gains are in danger of being reversed by a resurgence of poaching. Now also peddled as a cancer cure, the demand for the horn is rising, along with the price. Contrary to widespread beliefs, the rhinoceros horn has no proven medicinal or aphrodisiac qualities. The horns consist of agglutinated hair or keratin, the same type of protein that makes up human hair and fingernails.
In 2007, South Africa only lost 13 rhino to poaching. This number increased to 83 in 2008, 122 in 2009 and more than doubled in 2010 to 333. In 2011 we lost 448 rhino and in 2012 we thought we reached the turning point at 668. But 2013 was the worst at 1004 rhino killed for their horns.
There are thousands of dedicated, passionate rangers in South Africa, Zimbabwe and other rhino range states, standing in between the rhinos and the poachers – but they need our help.
The Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative is one of the Wilderness Foundation's programmes that was launched in May 2011 in response to the rhino poaching crisis. The initiative is concerned with maintaining populations of free ranging rhino within state and privately managed conservation areas.
The campaign supports conservation agencies and organized private game reserves in protecting their rhino as part of a functioning natural ecosystem. It also aims to focus the attention of politicians and decision-makers and encourage them to apply pressure both nationally and abroad to address the issue of illegal trade in rhino horn and other wildlife products.
Achievements for the period April 2013 to May 2014
Vehicles: Eleven vehicles were deployed for anti-poaching purposes to 7 rhino hotspots around the country. The Wilderness Foundation leases these vehicles to the agencies involved at no cost and monitors the useage, maintenance and effectiveness of these assets.
Equipment, Police Support and Informers: Equipment (including night vision and surveillance equipment, off road motorbikes, DNA kits, utility trunks, sleeping bags, tents, etc.) was purchased and donated to private and state reserves. Funds were spent on informers and equipment to police departments and security agencies assisting in the arrest of suspects in the past year and preventing possible poaching incidents.
Research: A two year research project in Kruger National Park on protocols and procedures for treating rhino survivors.
DNA Tissue Collection: Darting, collar (tracking devices) and DNA tissue collection of 80 Rhino as part of the national RhODIS* program.
*RhODIS® (Rhino DNA Index System) is a project that was initiated by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of Pretoria in order to help with the plight of the rhinos. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory is collecting DNA samples of rhinos across the country to create a database using the unique DNA profile of individual rhinos. The goal is for all rhinos to be on the system. This will deter poachers and assist in forensic prosecutions.
Training, Workshops and Awareness Campaigns: Training, workshops, documentary educational films, awareness campaigns; including fifteen key advocacy presentations and talks to key officials and governments in China, USA and South Africa.
Air Wing: An “Air Support” for fighting poaching. This includes a micro light, helicopter time and a BatHawk aircraft deployed to Niassa National Park Mozambique as well as to key Eastern Cape rhino hotspot reserves.
Wildlife Operations Group: Establishment of Wildlife Operations Group whose overarching objective is the reduction in the incidence of and the successful prosecution of wildlife related crime. This is achieved through a multi-disciplinary approach which includes: research and development; training; support investigation and operational activities in order to meet the objective.
Rescue: Rescuing of 6 rhino shot by poachers but still alive – we were able to save all 6 lives of poached Rhino during this period.
Demand Reduction: Establishing a credible demand reduction program in Vietnam. One of the key activities will be a Vietnamese Youth Wilderness Trail in collaboration with Vietnamese Pop singers Thu Minh and Thanh Bui, as well as bill boards and Public Service announcements in Vietnam in collaboration with Wild Aid.
Rhino related Partnerships: Partnership agreements with Wild Aid, Investec Rhino Lifeline, TUSK, Peace Parks Foundation, Graham Beck, The Cape Wheel and the Wheel of Brisbane were all signed and put into place during this period.
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