In 2019, South Africa recorded 594 cases of rhino poaching. There have been some improvements to numbers in recent years but, it is still 594 Rhinos too many. Our partners, Karongwe Private Game Reserve are one of the high-risk areas due to proximity to Kruger National Park.
Rhinos poachers target the horns. Horns can be medicinal and are also a symbol of wealth in some cultures. It is a lucrative market and can be highly organized. It is challenging to defeat.
The Covid pandemic and restricted travel have led to an increased risk of poaching. There are fewer tourists and therefore less human presence in the reserves. An estimated 40% of the lodges on reserves in the Limpopo region have closed. This makes them far more vulnerable.
We work with partners who tackle the issue of poaching with a multifaceted approach. This includes anti-poaching patrols, surveys, and education programs.
In South Africa, an anti-poaching strategy and unit are crucial within any area containing rhino, including in the Karongwe Private Game Reserve. We were able to support the anti-poaching patrols and activities, including supporting the purchase of an anti-poaching vehicle for the unit, which has resulted in more efficient patrols.
Since the pandemic, reserves have reported increased incidents of poaching for bush-meat. This means that small animals are hunted for food, affecting the delicate ecosystem of the area. Fences are damaged by these poachers. Recently thirteen holes were cut into the fence at Karongwe Reserve in only one week. This highlights the added issues that parks are facing at the moment. Repairs are expensive and threaten the security of the reserves.
The Anti-Poaching Unit in Karongwe is always on the job. Patrols run 24 hours a day seven days a week. We play an active role in patrolling the areas. The aim is to deter poachers as well as spot any activities which may relate to poaching. These patrols also help identify damage to fences and other equipment.
One of the times rhinos are particularly at risk is on and around a full moon. The natural light increases visibility and therefore poachers don’t need to use torches. This makes it harder to detect. At these times patrols need extra resources to effectively patrol.
Our funds support the anti-poaching activities, including the specific anti-poaching unit. This includes vehicle maintenance and fuel. This takes financial pressure off other needs as well such as fence repairs which have become an escalating issue this year.
Survey work is crucial in the anti-poaching battle. Monitoring the movement of rhinos, other megafauna, (and sightings of endangered species), fence patrols, and looking for snares, provides valuable information for the anti-poaching teams, and creates a physical presence on the reserve which helps to deter poaching. Surveys and monitoring help the Anti-poaching Units know where to focus their efforts. This means they are able to maximize their resources.
Survey skills are valuable in a range of other contexts too. Training individuals to carry out survey work can benefit their employment prospects. It can also allow trained individuals to support other conservation initiatives.
Donations have helped us train individuals and equipment to conduct surveys. This includes camera traps which help provide crucial information about the movements of a range of species.
Workshops focus on rhino poaching and the impact on the ecosystem if we lose these vital animals. A SANParks representative runs the sessions. The focus is on how anti-poaching programs are set up and implemented. There is also a range of other educational activities.
In 2019 we facilitated:
- 16 environmental education classes
- 16 youth development classes
- 2 community environment workshops
- 4 presentations for high school students
We also took 55 local students on game drives. This is a way of actively developing their knowledge and understanding of a range of conservation issues in the local area, and for many, it was the first time they had been on a game reserve and seen the animals, despite living locally.
Education is the key to change and if we can keep community members informed and educated on current issues and approaches they too can take a role in tackling the issue of rhino poaching.
How you can support our projects
Your donation can support the collaborative effort with our partners in South Africa. It is critical that anti-poaching work and activities are able to continue their work at this time. Your support will help the ongoing monitoring of the reserves continue and will also ensure ongoing education programs for the community who can help play a vital role in the conservation of rhinos.