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Rhino Poaching Trends

Summary Report – North West Province Second Rhino Summit
Compiled by Lizanne (E.J.) Nel – Conservation Manager

SA Hunters was invited to participate in the second Rhino Summit for North West Province that was held in Pilansberg on 18-19 September 2019. It was attended by close to a 100 people from several organisations, communities and landowners to set the scene and reflect on the problems and the issues involved.

The purpose of the summit was:

  • To reflect on the rhino conservation and management in the North West Province and to identify steps necessary to ensure the continued conservation of this species.
  • To reflect on the 1st Rhino Summit and progress made in implementing the resolutions.
  • To identify the important role-players in rhino management and conservation and to collectively develop a strategy to conserve rhinos in the North West Province.
  • To identify areas of collaboration and support to each other, and to unlock obstacles for open and honest engagement with one another.
  • To set up a forum through a MoU whereby rhino owners and managers in the North West Province pledge support to the strategy and to each other.

Progress made thus far includes:

  • Co-management agreements between the Boards and Community Property Associations have been signed and administrative challenges as well as commercial opportunities in parks are receiving attention. Awareness programs have been very successful where members of the surrounding communities have been engaged on rhino poaching.
  • Resuscitations of the Community Rhino Ambassadors Program was done where these ambassadors conduct awareness programs in communities.
  • A business plan has been developed, costed and approved for the development of a Joint Operations Centre to ensure collaboration between the most important stakeholders. Going forward, partnerships will be explored to develop the JOC.
  • The need to establish specialised counter poaching teams in important rhino reserves was identified. They will not be part of the normal ranger units so as to ensure that they are not influenced. These rangers need to be capacitated and sufficiently resourced. Budgetary constraint to support this unit is a concern.
  • A Ranger Wellness Program was implemented. Specific allowances will be put in place and the training at the SAWC will continue. A framework needs to be developed to better structure actions going forward and engage rangers on their specific needs and requirements.
  • Some of the established partnerships with private sector include – Rhino 911; an agreement with Madikwe Friends for security issues; EWT on rhino security and monitoring; SA Hunters on infrastructure support and community empowerment programs; Wilderness Leadership School; etc. Consistency in security infrastructure, training, research, monitoring and control is a challenge. Partnerships are however critical to success of the program and needs further deliberations.
  • Fundraising to solicit funds in support of the above stays a priority.

Interesting messages from the summit:

  • Poaching negatively impacts on wildlife-based tourism and the wildlife economy in the province, so it is not only a conservation issue, but also an economics one.
  • The CMORE APP is envisaged to play an increasingly important role in linking role players in the drive to reduce poaching. It captures all incidents and monitoring data in real time. It has been rolled out in larger parks and will in future be introduced to other areas.
  • The process to identify Wildlife Zones will continue to identify high priority areas in the country where resources will be focused.
  • Project Eastgate include the Limpopo, Swaziland, Mozambique cluster and Project Westgate is envisaged for the North-west Province, Botswana cluster. These two projects cover 70% of the national herd. Lessons learned in Project Eastgate will inform approaches in Project Westgate.
  • When clamping down on poachers in one area, the impact moves to another area. As such, the focus can not only be on protected areas, or within country boarders. Zones that transcend borders, as well as partnerships are critical.
  • Tactics are as important as strategy and an integrated approach is required. Poaching cannot be addressed in isolation of the socio-economic realities on the ground.
  • Steps in the process to clamp down on anti-poaching includes:
    • Establish a nerve centre
    • Information and investigation
    • Appropriate technology
    • Training and development

Poaching statistics:

  • In ten years, South Africa has lost approximately 8000 rhinos. Currently we have a moderate win with a downward trend in rhino’s being poached. We have to beat the syndicates to the container, and we can. Thereafter it requires very hard detective work across international borders.
  • In North-West Province, there are currently more rhino’s than ten years ago and poaching is also decreasing. Private sector is responsible for the bulk of the increase in white rhino, with numbers for the province in access of 2500. The number of properties that have rhino have however decreased, highlighting the disinvestment in rhino’s as a result of the high security costs and limited potential to generate income due to trade bans.
  • Some satistics are provided in the attached pictures.

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