As we at Goway continue our plight against rhino poaching in South Africa, Lauren Van Nijkerk of Wildlands Conservation Trust, writes the report below of some of the progress made by various programs and projects implemented to stop this illegal and cruel act.
We are still very much at war against Rhino poaching in South Africa. 2015 has seen the continuation of the threat to our rhino through the illegal poaching of their horn – the unofficial figure is around 450 rhino already poached this year, the majority of which are coming out of the Kruger National Park. The figure is unfortunately unofficial as DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) have indicated that they are not publishing regular poaching statistics, as they maintain it detracts from the efforts of the conservation authorities. Regardless of the figure, the threat to our rhino still persists.
Despite this, an incredible response is being mounted against this threat, which not only threatens our rhino, but our wildlife and tourism industry as a whole. The war against rhino poaching IS being won at various levels, and KwaZulu-Natal is a case in point. The conservation sector in KwaZulu-Natal, including government, private and communal, have all joined in the form of Project Rhino KZN to tackle this issue. Wildlands is one of the key members and founders of this initiative, which has created better collaboration and far more effective and efficient use of funds.
One of the most effective initiatives developed within KwaZulu-Natal over the past 2 years has been the development of the Zululand Anti-Poaching Wing (ZAP Wing), a collaboration between Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, conservation NGOs and private or communal landowners with rhino populations. This initiative has enabled 2 ultra-light aircraft and 2 helicopters, used daily for patrols and reactions to poaching incidents. The presence of a dedicated aerial support unit to rhino reserves can be seen as one of the reasons why only 38 rhino have been poached in this province to date this year. In the past month, 107 hours of patrols and reaction flights were flown, covering 21 different reserves with rhino. These pilots provide essential support to the field rangers on the ground, daily putting their lives at risk for our rhino.
Wildlands is one of the key supporters and contributors to ZAP Wing, enabling their ability to protect our rhino. Keeping these aircraft in the air is an expensive operation, and for this, we are extremely grateful to Goway Travel and Thompsons Africa, with whom Wildlands has created a long-term partnership in supporting our Rhino conservation activities.
As part of its ‘Looking out for rhino’ campaign, Canada-based Goway Travel donated over R50,000 to Wildlands at the Travel and Tourism Indaba in early May 2015. This is the second donation – the first two years ago was over R53,000.
“This initiative started in 2013 when Thompsons Africa, Goway’s South African ground handler, highlighted the excellent work of Wildlands in the field of rhino conservation,” says Craig Drysdale, General Manager of Global Sales for Thompsons Africa.
Bruce Hodge, founder and president of Goway, is committed to the preservation of the world’s unique environment and wildlife, instilling this in the company at all levels. Initially, Goway donated $20 for every brochure lodge booked over a four-month period. After extending the promotion twice it is now an ongoing project.
For Goway’s Project Rhino Tracker, the latest tracking technology is fitted to rhino in protected areas, allowing for more efficient use of field rangers. This provides better knowledge of rhino movements and behaviours, assisting in deploying field rangers at strategic locations to counter any vulnerable situations.
Since the start of the project, 15 rhino have been fitted with tracking devices at Thanda, Mduna Royal and Somkhanda Game Reserves. This includes the use of satellite transmitters, which provide the most real-time information on rhino available to date.
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