The race to save our rhinos is requiring that attention be given to various fronts in the anti-poaching war. There are several areas that need constant attention.
- Crime fighting and intelligence with the goal to put the crime syndicates who are masterminding these operations out of business
- Collection and building up of the DNA bank of individual animals which will assist in prosecution and convictions
- Protection of rhino populations in high risk areas
- Education of communities surrounding these high risk areas
- Un-marketing rhino horn in the east.
This past year the funds collected at the 2014 Gala event have gone towards working on the ground in protecting rhino in high risk areas as well as education in these areas. Some of the funds went to GRU (Game Reserves United) which is a collective effort of private and provincial game reserves along the western border of Kruger National Park who are working together to combat the rhino poaching endemic. Some of GRU’s game reserves include Timbavati, Sabi Sands and Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. GRU’s primary objective is coordinating ground forces and intelligence within the group of reserves and about a year ago it was announced that support would come from above as well.
On the education front WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) has responded accordingly through establishment of the WESSA Rhino Initiative in early 2010. Part of this initiative was to establish a programme called Rhino Ambassadors, individuals elected within communities to support environmental education. The objective of this programme as described by WESSA are as follows:
- Capacity building for Rhino Ambassadors within identified areas of hot spots for poaching
- Improved public and private sector capabilities who value their environment and are able to address local biodiversity management and use challenges
- To engage schools on issues of rhino poaching and to help them gain an understanding of the socio and cultural dynamics affecting this issue
- Gather information that could assist in reducing the incidence of poaching in those areas.
- Develop a set of educational tools to support conservation efforts within communities
This year our goal is to fund more programmes on the ground that are making a tangible difference, like for example, assisting the Honorary Rangers with the supplies and equipment they need in the Kruger Park.