Researcher: Simson Uri-KhobRegion: Kunene Region, Namibia
BackgroundSave the Rhino Trust (SRT) is a well-known agent of conservation in the Kunene area of North West Namibia. SRT began working for conservation in the 1980s, when huge spikes in poaching caused critical declines in the wild black rhino population. With close monitoring and careful management the rhino population gradually recovered and has now greatly increased in number; however the black rhino remain Critically Endangered and close conservation work with other local stakeholders is pivotal to the success of the population in future years. This is particularly important as the threat of poaching overspill from other southern African countries begins to cause concern throughout Namibia. As such, the work of SRT and its partners continues to be as imperative as it was when the Trust was originally established.
The mission of SRT Namibia is to serve as a leader in conservation efforts in the Kunene, including monitoring, training and research focused on desert-adapted black rhino, in order to ensure security for these and other wildlife species, responsible tourism development, and a sustainable future for local communities.
Approximately 75% of SRT’s efforts are allocated to field patrolling and monitoring. Everything depends on this work: without accurate information about the rhino population’s performance trends, SRT cannot make decisions about regional tourism, Ecological Carrying Capacity, make recommendations to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) about the target animals to be translocated etc. Monitoring the rhinos continues to be the prime activity.
However, there is an urgent need to enhance the coverage of surveillance, patrolling and rhino monitoring within the Kunene Region, as a result of Zimbabwe and South Africa seeing a sharp increase in rhino poaching in the past few years (333 rhino poached in South Africa in 2010). The threat of this activity spilling over the border into Namibia has never been more real. Furthermore, the intricacy and ruthlessness with which poaching syndicates operate has changed drastically, now involving helicopters, tranquilisers and chainsaws to achieve a quick get-in, get-out. With this in mind, MET convened a special security meeting in April / May 2010 to look at threats, predominant high-risk zones and the vulnerability of rhino populations in Namibia with the intention of collaborating with rhino stakeholders to mitigate any points highlighted. Current knowledge and security information indicates the strong possibility that syndicates in South Africa are planning to target Namibia in the near future.
ObjectivesManaging monitoring, resources and security for the conservation of desert-adapted black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) in the Kunene and Erongo regions of North West Namibia.
The overall aim of the project is to enhance the security of the black rhino within the Kunene rhino range, the monitoring effort of Save the Rhino Trust, Namibia, and to deliver outreach and training to neighbouring “Custodian” communities (conservancies).
- Continue regular rhino monitoring and data collection where monthly patrols collect data using Rhino ID forms and photographs, new springs, other interesting features / findings. A monitoring tool that encourages patrols to locate more elusive animals is in use with rhino sighting bonus payments graded according to difficulty.
- Other activities include identifying and monitoring “at risk” animals (e.g. those that have moved into fringe areas) and identifying possible “Founder” animals for 2012 translocations, whose removal will not adversely impact the donor populations.
- Increase security of the Kunene rhino population by reintroducing aerial surveillance patrols in the areas specified by MET and continue to record / respond to any illegal activities, photograph and destroy snares etc. All such incidents are reported to MET Regional Office for further follow up.
- Build capacity of conservancy and MET field staff – by conducting joint MET and SRT patrols in the Kunene Region, auditing conservancy “custodian” rhino populations and reporting on the outcome of 2010 MCA-funded translocations.
- Conduct feasibility assessments (habitat and security) of proposed new sites for future rhino translocations by carrying out habitat surveys (browse, water etc.) as well as threat analyses in these new areas.
The overall aims of the project (November 2010-October 2011) were to enhance the security of the black rhino within the Kunene region, assist the monitoring efforts of Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) in Namibia and to deliver outreach and training to neighbouring custodian communities also known as conservancies.
During the reporting period, Mr Simson Uri-Khob held the responsibility for the deployment and activities of all SRT’s tracking teams in the region. In addition, he was tasked with the training of Community Game Guards (CGGs) in the conservancies and auditing of trained CGGs. Further duties included attendance at various meetings as a representative of SRT and delivering of presentations to prospective donors and various other groups. The project was very successful as it produced very valuable data as well as highlighted areas which need to be focused on in the future to ensure positive conservation of black rhino in the area.