International Rhino Foundation Awards $100,000 Grant to the Southern African Wildlife College
Provides support for ongoing training and aerial and K9 units to counter poaching of rhinos and other wildlife crimes.
July 21, 2020, Strasburg, VA – The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) announced today a $100,000 grant to the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) to support training and anti-poaching operations to protect rhinos in the wild.
SAWC, established in 1997, provides training to natural resource managers from across Africa. SAWC also directly operates the K9 and aerial support units in Kruger National Park in South Africa and surrounding reserves. Kruger is home to the largest concentration of rhinos on the planet and faces intense poaching pressure.
IRF has partnered with SAWC in the past to provide K9 units and training to game reserve partners. “We have been extremely impressed with their work and K9 units are a valuable asset in protecting rhinos,” said Nina Fascione, IRF’s executive director. “We look forward to expanding our partnership to help protect some of the world’s most important rhino populations.”
SAWC’s accredited K9 Unit trains both rangers and dogs in the disciplines needed to assist in the detection and apprehension of poachers. The college provides trained line dogs that track poachers on game reserves as well as training to rangers who work with dogs.
IRF provided funding to Big Game Parks in eSwatini for two dogs and ranger training through SAWC. “A well-trained Rhino dog and its handler are powerful weapons against wildlife crime and playing an increasingly important role in African rhino anti-poaching efforts,” said Fascione.
SAWC has developed and tested an innovative strategy to counter poaching threats. Through the combination of well-trained field rangers and the addition of free-running canine assets, anti-poaching successes on the ground have increased from 3 – 5 % without a canine asset, to over 60% with the use of both on-leash and free-tracking dogs.
In addition to K9 units, SAWC utilizes aerial support as well as community engagement, addressing surrounding communities’ livelihoods as well as better land use practices to sustain viable ecosystems as part of a cohesive and holistic strategy to protect and steward wildlife populations.
The best practices learned in the field have translated to a broad curriculum that builds skills in conservation and wildlife management. The college also offers courses in nature-based tourism and community-based natural resource management as well as specialized training designed to meet the needs of rangers and other game reserve personnel.
Since its inception, SAWC has trained more than 18,000 students from 56 countries and 127 wildlife areas. SAWC is currently closed due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts in South Africa and has felt the pandemic’s economic impact. Part of the IRF funding will help pay for salaries of trainers and the staff who run the K9 and aerial support units.
“We are pleased to provide funding at a critical time to proven programs that keep rhinos safe and to help train the future conservation leaders in southern Africa,” said Fascione.