Equine Units in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. Credit: S Zulu
Dear friends and supporters
We are delighted to share a brief summary of our Equine teams’ activities over the last quarter.
The novel COVID-19 virus period has brought new challenges and opportunities for our conservation sector, as all our partner reserves have been forced to close their gates to tourists under Level 5 and 4 of lockdown over the past few months.
Fortunately, there was a significant decline in rhinos poached in South Africa under the lockdown period; which national government has attributed to the disruption of the supply chain resulting from the national travel restrictions, “We believe that the closure of our borders and the complete shutdown of international air travel removed the key way that syndicates use to supply horn to transit and consumer countries,” Minister Creecy.
A total of 14 rhino were poached in the whole of South Africa during April – the first month of the national Covid-19 lockdown. A total of 46 rhino were poached nationwide in March 2020.
In the Kruger National Park, only five rhino were poached during April 2020, compared to 46 in April 2019. Two rhino were killed in Mpumalanga in the same period, one in North West Province, and in our KwaZulu-Natal reserves six rhino were poached. There has also been a decline in elephant and marine poaching during the lockdown period.
Despite these successes, incursions into game reserves have continued. Because conservation levies have dried up, reserves have less money for conservation and protection, and are unable to contribute to their neighbouring communities. As an essential service, all equine units (as well as our canine and aerial patrol units) have remained on duty and on high alert throughout the lockdown period. With the game lodges empty, and reserves operating on skeleton staff, teams are spending long hours patrolling and making the best of their limited resources.
The long grass and thick bush in many reserves has made it impossible to ride into certain areas, but normal patrolling will resume after burning season. Staff shortages under lockdown have also decreased the numbers of riders available, but the horses are doing well. The interruption and apprehension of poachers in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in March was a key success, and no rhino have been lost in that Section since then.
Conservation is as much about people as it is about wildlife. The ongoing shutdown has meant that thousands of people living in impoverished rural communities adjacent to game reserves have lost their jobs and income. Food insecurity is growing daily and Project Rhino and African Conservation Trust have partnered with a number of NGOs in the Feeding our Wildlife Communities initiative – bringing food parcels to these desperate families. To date, more than 160,000 thousand meals have been delivered.
For more information on the Feeding our Wildlife Community Programme, as well as our teams on the ground, please follow our social media pages or visit our website.
A huge thank you to all our GlobalGiving donors who continue to support the work of Project Rhino and those on the frontline of the rhino poaching crisis. Your contributions and support continue to make a tremendous difference to the teams on the frontline and we value each and every donation.