Practical black and white rhino conservation
Mission: To uphold the security of the Park’s rhino populations by maintaining a viable perimeter fence and to increase the effectiveness of anti-poaching and monitoring activities, in order to ensure the continued and increased competence of field rangers in the Reserve.
Species: Black and White Rhinos
Location: Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa
Support started: 2005
Donating £4,930 towards an intermediate digital camera, a super action pro video camera, 3 Garmin GPS’s, 3 PDA cybertracker systems, 4 deep cycle batteries, pepper sprays, handcuffs and firearm cleaning material. Many of these items will be used to enhance surveillance in the park and allow the patrols to continue with their law enforcement activities.
Background: Both rhino species are now abundant at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa. The southern white rhinoceros had been reduced to a single population of 20 animals in the late 1800s, when the Park was proclaimed to protect them. By the early 1960s, rhino conservation had been so successful, that the Natal Parks Board were able to start catching and translocating these animals to other conservation areas throughout Africa. The African population now stands at some 14,500 animals, all of which had their origins in the Park. More recently, focus has shifted to the black rhinoceros and these are intensively monitored and managed in the Park. The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi black rhinoceros population is very important and the long-term conservation of this population is of utmost importance for the recuperation of the species.
HiP is one of the most important strongholds for both rhino species; however the park is now looking at ways to step up its rhino security due to the recent increase in rhino poaching. In 2012 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa this is an increase from the 445 that were killed in 2011, an increase is already expected for 2013. HiP is synonymous with rhino conservation and, despite the incredible dedication of all those involved in the protection of the park’s rhinos, many rhinos have been killed on HiP since the start of the rhino poaching crisis in 2008.
Hluhluwe uses patrolling and law enforcement activities to ensure the security of its rhino populations. In order for staff to perform successfully and efficiently, it is imperative that they are well equipped to perform any task that may be required. AFTW funds have been put towards field equipment required by the field rangers to continue to protect and monitor the rhinos of the park.
Achievements: The project has now purchased a Bantam light aircraft as poachers are becoming more highly organised, using sophisticated communication equipment, reserve uniforms to prevent identification and receiving information about patrols from local villagers. They have also started to use helicopters and darting guns, hence the need for an aircraft. This will help significantly improve law enforcement and help deploy ground patrols ahead of the poachers.
The aircraft will not replace traditional methods of patrolling, but fortify them and attempt to deploy law enforcement staff on the ground ahead of the poachers. Once up and running, it is predicted there will be at least 25hours of aerial patrols per month, providing support to at least 7,000 hours of foot and vehicle patrols per month. HiP hope this will send a strong signal out to the poachers that the reserve will not back down, and will continue to protect the rhinos in the park.
Future objectives: To continue to look into ways to step up rhino security due to the ever so increasing threat of poaching, and arrest those responsible. KZN’s main activities are anti-poaching and wildlife and habitat management. The threat of rhino poaching is higher now than it has been since the mid 1990s, and in recent months/years, a number of rhinos have been poached in KwaZulu Natal. The trends indicate a significant global increase in the demand for rhino horn, and rhino protection is currently given top priority in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. Experience has shown that the best way to combat poaching is through direct anti-poaching work, coupled with sound neighbour relations and environmental education programmes.
White Rhino, picture © Dirk Swart
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