Southern Africa Rhino Conservation Program
To combat an unprecedented poaching crisis in southern Africa, IRF is raising awareness about the poaching epidemic and providing funding and support for a variety of urgently-needed anti-poaching interventions across the region.
We are in the midst of an unprecedented poaching crisis in Africa. Driven by ever-increasing demand from growing Asian markets (particularly in China and Vietnam), poachers are killing three or more rhinos per day in southern Africa. Poaching syndicates, mostly based in Mozambique, are well-equipped, highly-organized and dangerous – they use helicopters, machine guns, veterinary immobilization drugs and other sophisticated methods to stalk rhinos.
By the end of 2014, 1,215 rhinos had been killed by poachers in South Africa alone, overtaking the 1,004 rhinos slaughtered for their horns in 2013. About two-thirds of the killing has taken place in Kruger National Park, which shares 221 porous miles of its 621-mile border with Mozambique.
IRF’s Operation: Stop Poaching Now campaign aims to raise awareness and funding for 10 Ways to Fight Rhino Poaching:
- Boots on the Ground
- Special Training
- Early Warning and Community Involvement
- Investigation and Forensic Techniques
- Rhino Dogs
- Law Enforcement Crackdown
- Poaching Deterrents
- Translocating Rhinos to Safety
- Intensive Monitoring and Tracking
- Demand Reduction
In 2014, we raised more than $225,000 to provide much-needed funding to high-priority anti-poaching projects in southern Africa. IRF has awarded several grants from Operation: Stop Poaching Now to critical projects in South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, while also translocating rhinos to a new site in Botswana under a separate initiative.
In an effort to protect and increase the world’s black rhino population by moving animals from a high-risk location to a new, safer area, in March 2014, IRF and partner Wilderness Safaris secured six black rhinos from South Africa’s Kruger National Park for translocation to Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The group included one adult male, one pregnant adult female, two sub-adult males and two sub-adult females. An additional 14 black rhinos were captured in South Africa’s North West Parks from in late May/early June and have subsequently been transported and released in the Delta. This second group included six males and eight females, from 1.5 to more than 10 years of age. With the exception of one bull lost to fighting, all animals are doing well, and are fitted with radio transmitters and tracked regularly. We plan to expand this population once new animals can be identified.
Great Fish River Nature Reserve covers some 46,000 ha (113,668 acres) of prime shrubby rhino habitat, which holds a growing population of black rhino that must be protected at all costs. IRF’s grant helped to build and equip a new guard post in an area where it was previously difficult for staff to operate because of a lack of accommodations.
In Phinda Nature Reserve, also an important rhino area, IRF is funding a rapid response team that can preemptively respond to ever-increasing poaching incursions. Funds have also strengthened relationships with local communities, a valuable source of information that can help to avert poaching.
Our contributions have supported StopRhinoPoaching.com, a small but dynamic South African organization that strengthens regional security and investigations; offers ranger services, including specialized training in security management and trauma/battlefield operations, and provides rhino dogs and handlers to high-priority areas.
Sharing a border with Mozambique, Swaziland’s rhinos are constant targets for heavily armed poaching gangs. Our support has engaged community networks that provide information to help head off poaching incursions.
In Gonarezhou National Park — a site where we hope a black rhino population will soon be re-established — we purchased a new digital radio system to enhance security for the park — a key element in preparing for a rhino reintroduction.
Part of dealing with the poaching crisis involves reducing demand for rhino horn in consumer countries. We partner with Education for Nature–Vietnam on public awareness campaigns to discourage consumption, including rhino-focused Public Service Announcements, TV and radio advertising campaigns to encourage the public to report rhino crimes through a toll-free hotline, as well as outreach to government and the business community.