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Story of hope amid the rhino crisis

Charles Myeni, a member of the IPSS anti-poaching unit
Charles Myeni, a member of the IPSS anti-poaching unit at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve. Picture: Kelvin Trautman

 

Every day, hundreds of men, women, even dogs give their all in the fight to protect rhino in SA against unscrupulous poachers.

With hundreds killed for their horns each year in SA (the official count for 2018 was just under 800 rhino killed) and many calves butchered or orphaned, it can seem like a losing battle at times.

But amid the doom and gloom, there is good news, for example that the number of animals killed in the country each year has decreased for five years now, and news of arrests and prosecutions of poachers.

Field rangers at the Somkhanda Community Game Reserve. Picture: Kelvin Trautman

Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in northern KZN reported that four suspected poachers were apprehended at the reserve recently, highlighting the efforts of their staff and committed field rangers.

In a press release, Wildlands, which co-manages the reserve, said it is “no wonder that 2019 has been hailed as one of the best for the reserve”. It noted that six rhino calves had been born on Somkhanda this year (2019).

“This is an incredibly important contribution to Zululand’s rhino population and a testament to the dedication of the Somkhanda management team, the anti-poaching unit and monitoring teams.

Sihle Mathe, of the Somkhanda monitoring team, calls up a rhino during a monitoring session. Picture: Chris Laurenz

“At every sighting, the team on the ground realise what a privilege it is to witness rhino in the wild. The fact that the rhino donors do not get to experience this daily, but continue to support these creatures, proves that there is hope for our endangered species yet.”

Loss of habitat

Wildlands noted that in addition to poaching, black rhino, in particular, faced a significant threat from a loss of suitable habitat.

“The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP), spearheaded by WWF Nedbank Green Trust and hugely supported by Wildlands – a programme of the Wildtrust and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is fighting for this cause and have to date moved 216 black rhino to new homes in Africa. In November 2019, the 13th new black rhino population was created through the BRREP, which saw 17 black rhino from across SA being relocated to Liwonde National Park in Malawi,” the press release stated.

Two of these specially selected individuals came from Somkhanda Community Game Reserve.

Momentous step

“This was a momentous step in the fight to bring black rhino back from their critically endangered status. Witnessing the passion and dedication from so many different individuals and organisations coming together for a common cause is humbling and inspiring,” said Pippa Orpen, senior wildlife monitor based at Somkhanda Community Reserve.

Meiring Prinsloo, the reserve’s manager, added, “This translocation means so much for conservation and is a real motivator to the team to continue the important and often dangerous work of protecting our natural heritage.”

Somkhanda lion by night. You too can adopt your own lion or rhino. Picture: Chris Laurenz

Wildlands, together with the Emvokweni Community Trust (which owns the Somkhanda reserve), thanked each donor, sponsor and adoptee for their contribution and time towards helping to conserve the region’s wild heritage.

*Wildlands offer a range of packages for the public to adopt Somkhanda wildlife. Visit http://wildtrust.co.za/support-us/ or email Buyisiwe@wildtrust.co.za and you can adopt your own rhino, lion or camera trap.

Now read: Wildlands – partnering for the planet

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