Partnerships key to protecting rhino population

Thursday, September 22, 2022

South Africa has demonstrated its commitment to protect the black and white rhino populations through partnerships that have resulted in species conservation over the years.

“At present, the private sector is conserving about 60% of South Africa's national herd. Therefore, government takes building partnerships and relationships of utmost importance in the conservation of this iconic species,” said Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy.

The Minister on Thursday as she joined the international community in observing World Rhino Day.

According to the country’s overall rhino conservation plan, the private sector is playing an increasing role in South Africa and the rest of Africa.

South Africa acknowledges that despite the pressures of rhino poaching, loss of habitat and vulnerability to climate change effects, the country remains the world’s most important and potentially influential rhino range State.

A high-level panel report has noted that the proportion of rhino on private land has grown from about 30% in 2012 to about 60% at present, complemented by anti-poaching successes.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment -- in cooperation with provincial conservation authorities, South African National Parks (SANParks), private rhino owners and the South African Police Service (SAPS) -- has been focusing on a more proactive and integrated approach.

This approach builds on existing initiatives and blurs the distinction made between national, provincial, and private parks, while increasing situational awareness and sharing of information.

“Joint investigative teams are working on focused investigations, with the support of the Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre (EEFC), ensuring consolidation of information nationally, and the ability to provide analysis support, not only at a tactical level but also to investigating teams.

“The aim is to strengthen our capability not only at a tactical level to prevent and combat poaching, but also our ability to disrupt the activities along the value chain, with a focus on integrated, intelligence-led investigations, inclusive of the financial aspects,” Creecy said.

Over the last year, conservation and anti-poaching efforts have intensified countrywide as a joint effort is made by the collaborative initiatives of State-owned conservation areas, government and private landowners to reduce the poaching of rhino in South Africa.

Technology helps in conservation

The use of the ‘Cmore’ situational awareness platform has greatly helped in the fight against poaching.

Through this single technology platform, all role players are able to collaborate, making use of real-time insights and analytical capability, linking, for example, camera traps and ranger patrols, while integrating a range of other systems.

“Information collected and communication flows through the EEFC continues to support the teams at both a tactical level and strategic level in both the private and public sector. 

“Our analytical capabilities have also improved, resulting in the increased capacity to identify those involved in rhino poaching and trafficking ,and improved and expanded investigations by multi-disciplinary teams.

“From a biological management point of view, the department - in partnership with the Rhino Management Group and all relevant stakeholders - is in the process of revising the Biodiversity Management Plans (BMPs) for black and white rhinos respectively,” Creecy said.

Recently, 27 rhino were successfully translocated from South Africa to the Zinave National Park in Mozambique.

“This landmark and pioneering rewilding initiative is the result of a partnership between Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC), Peace Parks Foundation and Exxaro Resources, in collaboration with the governments of South Africa and Mozambique. 

“Working to a two- to three-year timeline, the project is already well on its way to relocating more than 40 rhino to Mozambique in a series of highly co-ordinated and carefully managed rewilding operations. The first 20 white rhino and seven black rhino introduced to Zinave earlier this year are thriving,” Creecy said. –