Wilderness Supports Community-Based Rhino Protection Initiative in Namibia

February 2023 – In the ongoing battle to help protect Africa’s rapidly decreasing rhino population, Wilderness has pledged its support to Save the Rhino Trust’s (SRT) Community Rhino Ranger (CRR) Incentive Programme in Namibia’s Nyae Nyae Conservancy. With the funds directly supporting the community rangers, Wilderness hopes to not only assist the rangers in their ongoing fight against poaching, but to enhance its partnership with SRT to protect and raise awareness of Africa’s rhino population.

“We are hugely grateful to the Foley Family Charitable Foundation, whose generosity has made this possible. Our support will assist SRT with food and provisions for the rhino monitors, salaries for a Senior Field Officer and new Nyae Nyae Ranger Co-ordinator, fuel and running costs for vehicle patrols, a new vehicle, and an upgrade to the Rhino Ranger base camp and data centre”, noted Vince Shacks, Wilderness Group Impact Manager.

“This important initiative is exactly the type of project that Wilderness and our guests need to support. Not only will this work result in the protection of rhino, while also expanding the range of this species, but it elevates and contributes to the community conservancy model, which has proven to be such a successful conservation initiative to date”, Vince added. 

In 2022, SRT’s CRR Incentive Programme expanded into the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in the north-east of the country, and home to the Ju/’hoansi San community. It is bordered by Botswana to the east and the Khaudum National Park to the north, where the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT), with support from WWF Namibia, plans to expand black rhino rangeland.

“The WWF Namibia funding complements other support that they have secured for the MEFT to prepare for the black rhino range expansion efforts”, said Dr Pauline Lindeque, WWF Namibia’s Wildlife and Landscapes Programme Director.

This significant expansion has allowed SRT to not only commence operations in a different landscape, but also increase their rhino observation area. Furthermore, Nyae Nyae will be the only Namibian conservancy to host both black and white rhinos in the future. 

“The Nyae Nyae expansion project is positive in several ways.  The request from MEFT to replicate our rhino ranger programme is a nod to SRT’s success in Kunene over the last four decades. New jobs linked to conservation have already been created at Nyae Nyae, with more to come. Finally, the expansion of rhino range will have a tremendous positive effect for these Critically Endangered rhinos”, said Andrew Malherbe, SRT COO.

SRT’s planned activities for the conservancy include initiating the use of a SMART (Spatial Mapping and Reporting Tool) database, alongside training and equipping Rhino Rangers appointed by Nyae Nyae. Recent SRT training included exchange visits to Kunene in north-west Namibia, exposing the new rangers to SRT monitoring methodology, data collection and patrols.

During 2022, the Nyae Nyae rangers, through on-the-ground patrols and during exchange visits, reported 226 team field days, covering 3,693 km by vehicle.

“By working with partners like SRT, we are confident that our impact efforts will continue to make a positive difference to our last remaining wilderness areas, and the wildlife they protect. This region of Namibia has been identified as a key Wildlife Dispersal Area (WDA) for the larger Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). These WDA’s offer critical ecological and, in particular, wildlife movement linkages between protected areas across the landscape. It is community-driven efforts such as this, which are key to seeing this ambitious transfrontier conservation plan come to life”, Vince concluded.

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