As prevalent as poaching is in Africa, for the last thirty years it was not an issue in Namibia; thanks in part to Save the Rhinos Trust.
“It was essentially not an issue anymore because conservation efforts put local communities at the center,” says Jeff Muntifering, a scientific advisor at Save the Rhinos Trust.
“It’s become socially unacceptable; poachers are viewed as stealing from the community.”
STR stepped in 30 years ago, offering poachers jobs as rangers, teaching the people how to appreciate, live with and benefit from the rhinos. With jobs and revenues directly connected to the survival of rhino in Kunene Namibia, everyone from farmers to tourist operators, visitors and even the Namibian government share concern for rhino welfare.
However, with the poaching epidemic spiraling out of control in South Africa, it is becoming problematic to other countries; including the once seemingly untouchable rhinos of Namibia.
“We’ve come a long way since then (the start of the SRT program in Namibia), but organized poachers operating in our country pose the greatest threat to rhinos since Independence. After all we’ve fought for, this is unacceptable,” said Dr. Axel Hartmann, the longest-standing member of SRT’s Board of Trustees.
Centered in an area half a big as Kruger National Park (which is the size of Israel), with no National Park status, and in rugged desert terrain; this is no small feat. But the SRT is strengthening and re-structuring teams throughout the region to protect their rhinos.
With 3 decades of community and government cooperation and a highly successful ecotourism industry, Namibia seems deeply committed and prepared to take a stand.
Koos Verwey, a resource protection specialist working with the group stated“The poachers aren’t going anywhere, and we need to dig in for the long run. Make no mistake; in this fight we will lose more rhinos. But we have a great team of dedicated trackers, morale is high and we have broad support.”