I received this beautiful and encouraging message from WWF recently. If you find yourself wondering “how are they saving the rhinos?” then here’s what they have to say:

WWF-SA’s rhino conservation work

world wildlife fund

You are a valued supporter of WWF. As such, I want to give you a comprehensive update on our rhino conservation work. Beating the current scourge of poaching is a serious business and there are no short cuts. It requires a strategic and systemic approach. As you will see, the funds we received towards this cause have been put to good use as we continue to work to implement a rhino conservation strategy.

Moving forward:
WWF’s rhino conservation strategy has been developed in consultation with various stakeholders to galvanise our efforts around a five pronged approach aimed at strategic parts of the poaching value chain.
WWF will:
1. Continue to improve the understanding of trade dynamics in importing countries and find ways to influence demand

2. Improve bilateral co-operation between South Africa and importing countries such as Vietnam

3. Improve the judicial and forensic processes, through capacity development as well as expert and hardware support

4. Build community buffers around key rhino populations

5. Continue to build resilient rhino populations by improving management of existing populations as well as establishing new founder populations in secure locations

This strategy builds on the work that has already been undertaken, and is currently underway.

Looking back:
1. The WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project aims to increase the numbers of the critically endangered black rhino by increasing land on which they can breed. Since 2003 seven new black rhino populations have been created. Nearly 120 black rhino have been translocated to these sites. In November 2011, 19 black rhino were translocated to create a founder population of black rhino in the north of the country. The translocation cost just over R1 million. This included the airlifting of black rhino to accessible areas where they were moved to transport vehicles to take them a further 1500 km by road. Costs included the payment of staff, drugs used during the translocation, and the on-going monitoring of the black rhino in their new habitat. In the first half of the project’s financial year, a further R330 000 has been spent on security for black rhino in important black rhino source reserves. This has been spent on camera traps, motorbikes, telemetry receivers, tents, rhino monitors and helicopter hours during veterinary treatments of black rhino that were injured in snares. The project also has an educational awareness component through a regular conservation/nature newspaper targeted to more than 10 000 children living near rhino reserves.

2. Law enforcement support is significant to aid in the investigation and prosecution of illegal wildlife trade. R272 000 has been spent on law enforcement support. Of this, R72 000 was spent on support for prosecutors and magistrates involved in rhino poaching trials. This includes the development of guidelines and handbooks for use in rhino case management, and the identification and support of expert witnesses. R200 000 was provided for the purchase of microchip scanners for South African conservation agencies. The fitting of microchips to live animals and to horns recovered from the field can aid investigation of rhino horn crimes.

3. Rhino population database development: R355 294 was spent on the development of a black and white rhino database, and status surveys on black rhino and white rhino on private land within South Africa. The private sector own 24% of South Africa’s white rhino population so play a major role in their conservation. WWF’s surveys of white rhino over the last decade, with the latest done in 2008, are the most reliable estimate of this population of rhinos.

4. Rhino horn DNA profiling: R240 000 was contributed in 2011 to the building of a forensic database and provision of forensic kits for the investigation of rhino crimes. The University of Pretoria Veterinary Genetics Laboratory have developed new techniques of fingerprinting rhino horn using DNA profiling. This will help to ensure full traceability of legal horn for reporting to CITES. It will also provide a mechanism to trace the origin of recovered horns.

5. Capacity building between South Africa and Kenya: R490 000 has been spent on a bilateral collaborative project between South Africa and Kenya. This project aims to improve forensic capacity related to rhino poaching cases in Kenya and strengthen DNA profiling capacity in South Africa through team building and the exchange of information. 300 DNA forensic kits have been supplied to Kenya Wildlife Services. The funding has also gone into sampling 800 rhinos in Kenya, helping to build an Africa-wide rhino horn database.

6. Controls in rhino horn trade and possession: R200 000 has gone towards identifying illegal rhino horn trade routes, promoting investigative collaboration between countries and supporting enforcement of CITES regulations by ensuring credible information about trade dynamics and member state compliance.

7. Anti-poaching support for North West Parks: R427 000 has been given to North West Parks to support their anti-poaching efforts. This has been used to purchase equipment for anti-poaching patrols, including battle jackets, sniper vests, camouflage nets, patrol tents, binoculars and radios.

Thank you for sharing in our commitment and passion to secure our rhino populations. We welcome your continued support. Please contact Denise Samson on 021 657 6600 or with comments or queries.

For a living planet,

Andrew Baxter (Dr.)
Head: Business Development & Fundraising

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