The Valley of The Rhinos
Illegal international wildlife trafficking has reached alarming proportions, and is now ranked as the fourth most worrisome illegal activity in the world after drug and arms trafficking and human trafficking. We are facing a risk for future generations who would live in a world deprived of the most iconic species on the planet. The extinction of species is final, so it is urgent to act as soon as possible.
Rhinos in particular are among the main victims, as demand for rhino horn has reached unprecedented levels. The inevitable illegal trade is coming to a head, exposing Africa’s rhinos to deaths from birth, resulting in population declines at an accelerating rate.
Poaching is increasing rhino conservation costs, to the point that many protected areas are facing a funding gap to effectively protect African rhino populations and give them the priority they deserve.
Fight Poaching, Cultivate Hope
Addressing this challenge requires a specific approach that can be adapted and that in turn integrates financing mechanisms to attract philanthropic and impact investors, in order to improve the management of protected areas effectively.
There is hope for rhinos. The continued success of conservation initiatives specifically targeting certain rhino populations shows that, with the right approach, poaching can be reduced and the rhino population can grow.
Changing The Funding Model For Conservation
One of the hurdles of rhino conservation management is raising sufficient funds from traditional sources required for effective rhino management and protection, not to mention the lack of funds necessary to enhance and sustain these long-term impacts. The challenge of finding long-term financial solutions for species conservation and involving people through the creation of livelihoods depends on a change in the way conservation is financed.
As a consequence, the Rhino Impact Investment (IIR) Project started in 2016 with a three-year trial phase to assess the feasibility of results-based financing to secure long-term funds that are critical to business. conservation areas, with rhinos being the initial focus.
The goal of transforming conservation is to demonstrate that results-based financing mechanisms allocate additional funds to improving the effectiveness of the management of major rhino populations. The result will be to launch a product investment that will drive profitable and impact-focused growth to increase rhino numbers.
Fund Conservation Outcomes
Project IIR’s results-based financing model clearly links the benefits of rhino protection with the return on investments.
Project IIR funding mechanisms direct impact investment funds to selected sites to fund management interventions in favor of rhino conservation. The investor assumes the investment risk based on an understanding or measurement of risk and the uncertainty associated with the interventions.
A key performance indicator (KPI) is used to assess the net growth rate of rhinos and obtain the conservation result. A second set of KPIs are used that favor short-term interim payments, based on the assumption that short-term KPIs favor the final KPI. Based on the conservation result (measured by KPIs), the performance payer pays the impact investor the initial investment with a percentage relative to the conservation result.
Unlike traditional fundraising models, the IIR model design calls for a results-based approach to addressing conservation challenges. The benchmark and evidence-based model encourages stakeholders to critically analyze and understand conservation issues, define progress and focus on results, by shifting the focus from outputs to long-term impacts.
Creative ideas must be conceived, examined and evaluated to generate conservation funding that is cumulative, more efficient, more impactful, and targeted for success: Project IIR is doing just that and has great potential to create a new asset capable of promoting the participation of new and more diversified capital markets in the conservation sector.
This innovative funding initiative will offer performance payers and impact investors the world’s first performance-based funding mechanism specifically targeted at species.
The IIR Project, in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Tsavo Fund, is conducting trials through rhino conservation interventions in Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park to monitor and understand the parameters that can critically undermine the development of a results-based financing mechanism specifically for rhinos.
Tsavo West National Park, under the management of KWS, is located in southeastern Kenya and is part of the Tsavo Conservation Area, a huge 48,000 km2 wildlife area. Tsavo is undoubtedly the most important network of protected areas in the country, working for the benefit of a great diversity of species and supporting a population of rhinos of continental importance, as cataloged by the Specialist Group on African Rhinos – Survival Commission of Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN SSC).
The first results, so far, not only support the feasibility of a results-based funding mechanism, but have also yielded important results in rhino conservation work in Tsavo West.