Posts Tagged With: Botswana

Insurance Policy for Rhinos

“Not on my watch” was the phrase South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa used in reference to the possibility of rhinos going extinct in the country. The Minister, who’s idea of saving them is to propose legal trade in rhino horn, has been highly criticized for the governments handling of poaching.

So, the slaughter continues. Over 230 killed just three months into the year, according to OSCAP (Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching).

western black by nat geo

The western black rhino was declared extinct in 2006. photo: National Geographic

Although rangers and anti-poaching strategies continue to keep rhinos alive, there’s still the nagging “What if…”

After all, only a handful of Javan Rhinos are left with virtually no chance at a comeback,  there are only 3 Northern Whites on the planet and the Western white rhino has vanished.

Living on the edge of extinction in South Africa, so what if we MOVE them; somewhere “safer”?

A recent initiative is doing just that. The Australian Rhino Project is flying 20 rhinos a year (a total of 80) from South Africa to a zoo in the southern part of the Outback.

monarto zoo 2 rhinos

Southern White Rhinos at the Monarto Zoo in Australia, an open area zoo with 10 sq km of space. Photo: Monarto Zoo

The real estate agent who has proposed the project (at a cost of $75,000 per rhino), believes “Australia is one of the safest places on the planet to start this breeding herd, with the eventual intention that they would be repatriated to Africa when those [poaching] issues are sorted out.”

What seemed a foolhardy endeavor three years ago, is now on the verge of reality. It remains to be seen if the dreams of safekeeping and breeding will come to fruition, but with the rate of rhino death greater than the number born, perhaps it’s not so far-fetched after all.

What do you think?








Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mixed Messages are killing our elephants and rhinos

To crush or hoard?

That is the dilemma for African countries with ivory stockpiles. It’s a polarizing debate. Destruction eliminates any and all possibility at corruption, it will not find its way back on the market and it sends a clear message ivory NOT attached to the animal has no value.

But the other side believes saving and selling the ivory allows the money to be rolled back over into conservation efforts for the animals, and the communities.

The problem is that elephants and rhinos exist throughout the African continent, making the “product” available in multiple countries, and each country has its own stance on stockpiling. So while Mozambique destroys ivory, directly across the border in Zimbabwe the country stores it, awaiting an opportunity to sell. This creates mixed messages and a lack of unity.

horns and tusks by reuters

Seized horns and tusks on display in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Selling Ivory Funds Communities

Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa have a stock and sell take on ivory.

Namibia  Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has said destroying the ivory and horn goes against government policy. Instead the stock is auctioned off to other interested countries.

“We will get a lot of money and the proceeds will go to state coffers to alleviate poverty. Also, we feel it is not an effective deterrent in fighting poaching,” said Shifeta.

While Botswana states it is “out of the question” to sell rhino horn, they’ve just announced they will seek permission to sell their ivory stockpile after the 10 years moratorium with CITES has expired in 2018.

Good news for the rhinos, considering the fact that Botswana is key to future rhino populations with the current translocations taking place from Kruger National Park.  Not so great for elephants.

Overall,  an interesting proposition considering the country’s strong stance on anti-poaching, and the large stake in their wildlife. 90% of tourists in Botswana come for the wildlife.

bots tourism

The wildlife tourism industry is estimated to continue to grow throughout the coming years, making it an invaluable component to the economy. Graph: World Travel & Tourism Council


 Destroy Ivory, Stop Poaching

Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and Ethiopia have all held public burns/crushes to destroy their stockpiles of horn and ivory.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesman Paul Udoto says the illegal ivory has no economic value to them, saying that “the selling is what has brought us to the state of poaching that we are in.”

kenya ivory burn bbc

Kenya burned 15 tonnes of ivory in March. President Kenyatta has vowed the entire stockpile will be burned this year. AFP photo

One-off Sales

So the hoard and sell leads to occasional one-off sales of a set amount for a limited time.

It is the belief of some that by CITES issuing these sales of horn or ivory, it fans the flames and results in a poaching spike, sending elephant and rhino populations into a tailspin. Afterall how can we  allow LEGAL one-off sales of a product AND simultaneously strive at reducing demand for the same product? Confusing to say the least.

The experts who work with elephants are in agreement.

cynthia moss 1It is very discouraging having to fight the battle to save elephants once again. The 1989 ban helped elephants to recover in most parts of Africa. Now even in Amboseli we’re losing elephants to ivory poachers for the first time in many years. The sale of any ivory–legal or not–is creating demand. No one needs ivory. It is a beautiful substance, but the only ones who need it are elephants.

– Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Elephant Research Project

ian redmond 2As long as ivory is valued as a commodity, every tusker is at risk from poachers, and only where anti-poaching efforts are sufficient will elephants survive. Anti-poaching costs money and lives. Banning the ivory trade has been the single-most effective and economical way to slow the loss of elephants across their whole range – not just where they can be protected by anti-poaching units. 

Ian Redmond, OBE Wildlife biologist and Ambassador for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species

So who do we listen to? The experts who work with these creatures, seeing their lives and deaths and the daily effects of poaching? Or political officials with a mixed bag of agendas?

If we must view elephants, rhinos or other animal in economic terms, then we must factor in tourism. Without wildlife, there is no tourism. Period.

To read more about the fight to ban ivory and save elephants: Born Free Foundation 


Elephant herd on a dusty day in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Photo: Tisha Wardlow







Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

An Epic Move for Rhinos

crash in kruger © Scotch Macaskill

Crash in Kruger via Scotch Macaskill. A crash is a group of rhino-increasingly rare with the escalation of poaching.

After much speculation as to whether or not it would happen, the South African government has made it official. They have approved moving 500 rhino out of Kruger National Park.

Of the rhino to be moved, 260 will be sold to private buyers and another 250 taken to a safe location.

edna molewa

Edna Molewa, SA Minister of Environmental Affairs

Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs, confirmed the possibility the rhino will be sent to Botswana and Zambia, where there will be “intense protection zones”.

According to Molewa, “this move, along with creating rhino strongholds could allow a total rhino population size of South Africa continue to grow.”

Botswana not only has better political and economic stability and a smaller population than South Africa, but they recently banned commercial trophy hunting and in 2013 adopted the controversial shoot-to-kill policy in place for poachers.

In Zambia, the rhino population had been decimated from previous poaching. But groups like African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Rhino are working on bringing rhino populations back to varying Parks. Possession of rhino horn or a conviction of poaching can receive a sentence of 20 years in Zambia. The Tourism and Arts Deputy Minister , Lawrence Evans said poachers and other people engaged in illegal wildlife trade would be dealt with severely.

Prev rhino move from SA to Bots mike cowton

Previous rhino translocation from SA to Botswana. Photo: Mike Cowton

Although logistically moving such a large number of 2 ton animals seems difficult to say the least, they’ve done it before. Between 1997 and 2013 there were 1500 relocated from Kruger. According to Molewa that move “has contributed significantly” to the rhino population.

rhino move via green renais epa

Helicopters have been donated to assist in the move. Photo: Green Renaissance/epa

Disclosure of exact location could endanger the rhinos, yet it would be all too easy to maintain small groups of rhino throughout varying reserves, just enough to avoid questioning; in the meantime, selling the majority.

Even more troubling-Who are the private buyers? Trophy hunters? China? Vietnam?

With the steeping shadow of suspicion looming over them, can South Africa really afford not to be upfront?

According to a report released to the SANParks board, rhino poaching has seen an average escalation of 70% a year. At the time of this posting, 660 have been slaughtered in the current year.

For more on South Africa’s rhino poaching plan: Edna Molewa’s Strategic Management of Rhinos






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Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

okavango rhino

A previously translocated rhino, now in Okavango Delta in Botswana.

The latest development from Kruger National Park is the possibility of moving approximately 500 rhino in an effort to stop the slaughter. Although no details are confirmed with this massive relocation, there is speculation that Botswana may be one of the destinations.

Botswana is one of a few countries who have adopted the controversial shoot-to-kill policy in answer to relentless poaching.

There will always be arguments about whether or not it is an ethical solution. But does it work?

In Swaziland game rangers have permission to shoot-to-kill people suspected of poaching wildlife on the monarch’s land and protects them from prosecution for murder in some circumstances.

Ted Reilly, the chief executive of Big Game Parks (BGP), which runs the major national parks in Swaziland on behalf of the King, holds a Royal Warrant to allow him to shoot-to-kill.

Reilly has said ‘Our guys aren’t to be messed with. If they [poachers] come after rhino they’re going to get hurt, and if he gets killed or maimed, well, you know, who’s to blame for that?’

Results: In the last 20 years, Swaziland has only lost 3 rhino to poaching.

Warning to poachers.

Warning to poachers.

In Kaziranga National Park, India, forest guards actually receive a cash  bonus to their salary if they successfully wound and kill a poacher. Furthermore, the forest guards will not be prosecuted for the shooting , whether in self-defense or as a pro-active ambush or attack.

The issue of indemnity for armed wildlife guards is an important one for many field programs, whose staff risk being caught up in lengthy court cases and even prison, while acting in the line of duty.

kaziranga rhino 2

Indian Rhino in Kairanga National Park.

Results: Kaziranga has lost 20 rhino so far this year, and a total of 20-40 have been poached every year since 2005.

Zimbabwe has enacted shoot to kill. Their results? There were 20 rhino poached in 2013 and 60 in 2012. This was a drop since their record high of 84 in 2008.

Tanzania had a shoot-to-kill policy for a short time. It was proving to be extremely effective.

Soldiers, police, game rangers and forestry officers had been involved in a month-long crackdown on poachers, code-named Operation Terminate, in October. But the operation was suspended after an inquiry by MPs uncovered a litany of arbitrary murder, rape, torture and extortion of innocent people.

But officials admit elephant deaths have risen dramatically since the government abandoned the policy against poachers

The deputy minister of natural resources and tourism in Tanzania, Lazaro Nyalandu said 60 elephants were butchered in November and December, compared with just two in October.

tan ele

Tanzania is losing 30 elephants a day to poaching.


Although shoot-to-kill is not fool-proof, as the most greedy of poachers will poach; it does convey the strongest stance possible in a countries’ willingness to stop the slaughter of our wildlife. If Botswana is indeed the recipient of Kruger’s rhino, maybe their shoot-to-kill hardline stance on poachers will finally stem the blood flow.





Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Which Country is a Poacher’s Haven?

All eyes are on South Africa as the epicenter to the war on rhino poaching. As the death toll rose to over a 1000 in 2013, this year is shaping up to be comparable to that.

But rhinos, just as poachers, know no borders. So what is happening in the surrounding countries?

south africa and surrounding 2

Namibia ~ From 2005 to 2010, there were no reported poachings. 11 have been killed since then, with 4 all in this past year. Namibia has deployed soldiers in anti-poaching units to stop the escalation.

Environment and Tourism Minister Uahekua Herunga said “We have created a permanent unit made up of the army and all security services solely dedicated to anti-poaching. “The unit will be in place forever, or until poaching has been drastically reduced.”

Botswana ~ Working on sustaining its rhino population, they have recently relocated up to 100 rhinos from South Africa. Botswana is home to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a model for conservation, with no animals being poached since it’s founding 24 years ago.

“Our number one focus has been to make local people aware that these animals are worth more alive than dead,” Moremi Tjibae, the sanctuary’s chief warden.

whities in kharma

White Rhinos in Kharma Rhino Sanctuary

Zimbabwe ~ The bright spot for rhinos here is the Lowveld Rhino Program. Approximately 80% of the country’s surviving rhinos are in Lowveld Conservancies. Poaching levels dropped by 66% in 2013. Although it’s a comprehensive conservation program, it is hard to know if the drop is from stricter penalties or with less than 1000 rhinos, if they have simply become harder to come by.

Mozambique ~ The biggest thorn in the side of conservationists in southern Africa-where poachers and crime syndicates are so brazen, they reside in an area known as “Poacher’s Alley”, a neighborhood built on the blood of rhinos and elephants.

They have a blatant disregard for the rules of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora). Not only do they ignore the rampant poaching, there is evidence the state is complicit in the activity.

“Many of the crime syndicates have moved their base of operation from South Africa to Mozambique, where they are able to act with impunity,” said Susie Ellis, executive director of IRF, a nonprofit rhino conservation organization with field programs around the world. “Mozambican poachers are highly organized and are slaughtering rhinos and elephants on a daily basis, while the Mozambican government turns a blind eye.”

poached mom rhino with baby near

Mozambique is thought to be responsible for 80-90% of the poaching in Kruger National Park.

It has become so out of control that on 3 July, the Environmental Investigation Agency petitioned President Obama to sanction Mozambique for their continuous role in rhino and elephant poaching.

With Obama’s Executive Order to combat wildlife trafficking announced a year ago, this is in direct and obvious violation.

“…the United States shall promote and encourage the development and enforcement by foreign nations of effective laws to prohibit the illegal taking of, and trade in, these species and to prosecute those who engage in wildlife trafficking, including by building capacity”












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Your Dollars Working for Rhinos

Helping Rhinos & Fight for Rhinos Donation Spending for June

rpa-gyropterIn June we are delighted to provide enough funding to cover 6 months gyrocopter pilot salary to Reserve Protection Agency, totalling £3,300.  The newly launched gyrocopter will cover a number reserve’s in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and experience has shown that having  an ariel presence is a real deterrent to poachers. We hope that this increased ariel presence in the area will help reduce the incidents of poaching as well as provide other key conservation benefits.

fatu-150-pixWe are also delighted to confirm that the funds raised through our adopt a rhino scheme for the first half of 2014 total £2,500.  This is amount is now on its way to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and will be used to fund additional training for Ol Pejeta’s Head of Armed teams, including a 3 week visit to Kruger National Park to spend time with their Special Operations team.  This is a great example of different organisations working together for the good of the rhinos, and strategy we are very keen to support.  Help us to keep supporting Ol Pejeta by adopting a rhino today – simply click here.

black-mamba-trainingIn June we also were able to provide £900 to one of the Balule reserves in Limpopo, South Africa.  This funding will provide 12 months food the the Black Mambas anti-poaching team.  The Balule area, adjacent to the Kruger National Park is and forms part of the Greater Kruger Park.  It is an area target by poachers due to the overall rhino population, sheer vastness of the area and its proximity to the Mozambique border.  We hope this donation will help keep the key anti-poaching unit in place for the next 12 months at a minimum.

game_reserves_united_logoWe were very pleased to be able to continue to support Game Reserves United this quarter with a donation of £1,600.  Watch this space for details on how the funds will be used by GRU


helen-webAnd finally, thanks to a grant from Paradise Wildlife Park, we were able to provide£1,000 to researcher Caroline Rees in Botswana.  Caroline is researching how 6 rhinos adapt to being translocated from South Africa to Botswana.  This is vital research as there are plans to translocate a further 100 rhinos over the coming months and knowing how they will adapt is key to the success of the translocation.  Find out more about Caroline’s research here

Please help us continue our work! We can’t do it without you. Donate today.

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