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Kunene Black Rhino Air Monitoring Project

  • Between February and March 2009, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) carried out a black rhino capture and translocation operation in the Kunene Region. These rhino were then translocated to the southern portion of the species' former range in the Kunene Region. This is a historical event and is the first such exercise to take place since 1974 when animals were removed and sent to Etosha National Park.

    SRT was tasked with providing technical skills on the ground, and vital aerial surveillance and spotting for the capture operation. Currently MET is completely reliant on SRT for aerial support and tracking of these selected rhino both during the capture as well as the post-release monitoring during March and April 2009. The Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust has assisted with funding to make this aerial monitoring possible.

     

  • Under its MET-issued mandate to 'monitor and research' the Kunene Region's black rhino population, SRT have successfully tracked the population trends for a number of years. At this point the current population is now viable for translocation into new suitable areas within the species' historical range.

    During the March 2006 and July 2007 rhino capture operations in Kunene, SRT played an important role in assisting MET with the capturing of black rhino and fitting each animal with a radio transmitter. These animals were moved to two conservancies (#Khoadi //Hoas and Omatendeka).

    With the next capture and release operation as well as translocation that took place in February 2009, rhino were translocated to another four communal conservancies (Doro !Nawas, Huab, Sorris Sorris and Tsiseb), under the rhino custodian system. Following the success of these operations, MET has requested SRT to conduct both aerial and ground monitoring of the individual rhinos fitted with radio transmitters.

    • Follow-up observation and monitoring of the movements of rhino fitted with transmitters.

    • Assist local communities (Conservancies), who have become custodians of these sub-populations of black rhino, in monitoring these animals until such time as they have settled and can be viewed for ecotourism activities, thus generating much-needed income for the communities.

    • Monitoring the distribution of rainfall over time.

    • Monitor vehicle movement in protected areas as well as assist conservancies and MET in detecting any possible illegal activities.

    • Serve as a deterrent to would-be poachers (approximately 80 percent of the entire rhino range will be covered).

  • Each block will be covered twice a month by flying either north-south or east-west transects. Any 'sighting' of rhino with transmitters, using receivers, or visually will be plotted utilising a Global Positioning System (GPS). All data collected will then be written up and handed to the National Rhino Coordinator, designated researchers/scientists and the Director of Research of SRT for evaluation. Aerial patrols will be flown as requested by MET, Conservancies or as planned by SRT, covering the more sensitive areas of the north-western rhino range.