Populations of rhino which are established on either private land or communal conservancies under the BRCP require constant monitoring and protection if they are to be successful. A critical gap in the BRCP has been the availability of trained, competent and dedicated field monitors to record the daily progress and to protect these sub-populations.
Between the Ministry of the Environment (MET) and Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) this gap has been identified and both agree that the solution lies in selecting suitable candidates from the Custodian communities and landowners, having SRT / MET train these monitors in the field, deploying the trained monitors with suitable equipment, and following up by MET and SRT in the communal conservancies and on private land.
There will be a two-phase approach to the full development of a competent and dedicated force of rhino monitors / field rangers. The first phase is a course that will have the objective of providing basic training, selecting those suitable for deployment and identifying candidates with leadership potential. The first of these will be run by MET and SRT at Ojovasondo in Etosha National Park.
The course currently being used and refined by SRT will then serve as a follow-up after assessments of the candidate monitors and their performance in the field.
SRT, MET, the respective communal conservancy committees and private landowners will select participants for training. The area has sufficient rhino for the animals be easily located, and has a population of other ‘dangerous’ species, namely elephant and lion.
After these courses, the monitors should have up-to-date knowledge of each population of rhino (distribution, social interaction, dynamics), while the rhino themselves will benefit from improved protection. Trained Monitors will ensure greater on-the-ground protection for individual rhino as well as provide relevant management information on distribution patterns and population dynamics.
In addition, professional surveillance and protection of black rhino populations in the communal conservancies will mean greater accessibility to the animals by guided tourists and less conflict between the rhino and members of the community.
Final Report September 2009
Between 31 May and 5 June, nineteen people were trained by two officials from Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) to become Rhino Monitors. Of the group of trainees, 13 were from commercial Custodian land units and six from the Ministry of Environment & Tourism.
The course covered both the practical and theoretical, with topics such as rhino conservation background; uses of rhino horn; the cultural, spiritual and economic value of rhino; the classification of rhino sightings and importance of collecting good rhino information; how to conduct a rhino patrol and approach a rhino; recording sighting information; determining the age classes of calves, and sexing rhinos as well as scoring their condition.
Of the 19 trainees, 15 passed the examination with 80% or more.
Ideally, the course should be restructured and adjusted. Care must be taken to select people with similar levels of education to avoid faster learners becoming bored and slower learners becoming despondent. Furthermore, examination questions were not always clear and results were thus affected by an understanding of the questions.
Although the course, as structured currently, was not ideal for this group of trainees, it brought to light logistical difficulties and indicated the way forward for further training of Rhino Monitors. Also, it became evident the there is a strong need and willingness for people to be trained as it reinforces the feeling of being a partner in the Custodianship Programme.
Progress Report February 2009
During the past few years the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) has played a pivotal role in training communal Conservancies who are part of the Black Rhinoceros Custodianship Programme of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Currently, six communal Conservancies are part of the Programme, all of which have undergone training, with the most recent training having taken place during January 2009.
MET is currently dependent on the expertise of SRT in regard to training. Despite having a rhino monitoring team within MET who monitor the black rhinoceros population in Kaross, the rare species camp of Etosha National Park, no adequately trained personnel with the capacity of training others is available.
During late February and early March 2009 two more communal Conservancies and three freehold land units are being stocked with black rhinoceros populations. Both MET and SRT are involved in these translocations. As part of the translocations, eight rhinos will have to be boma trained for release on two free-hold land units in southern Namibia. The Black Rhino Custodian Manager will be committed to the boma training of these animals for the entire duration, starting early March to mid-April 2009.
Planning & Progress
The Custodians of the rhinos to be translocated during February and March 2009 will be present during the capture and boma care of the animals. They will receive on site training on how to identify the individual animals, as well as photographing them for identification purposes. Each animal will be fitted with a horn transmitter, and the Custodians will be trained on how to use telemetry systems in order to track the animals post release. SRT will assist with aerial post-release monitoring of the rhinos.
During the capture period, MET and SRT personnel will plan the new training course and run the selection for the most suitable candidates for the initial training phase. Due to the intense boma training period, the formal training course will not be able to take place before May 2009.