First published in The Citizen 3 November 2014: http://citizen.co.za/268787/am-rhino-or-tambo/ PICTURE: Two men were arrested at OR Tambo International Airport on Friday for possession of rhino horn worth an estimated R4.5...
The fight against poaching and illegal wildlife trade was given a touch of glamour when Prince Harry visited the Southern Africa Wildlife College. But, he had more than well-wishes to share.
The prince announced that United for Wildlife (an alliance between seven influential conservation organisations and The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry) is partnering with the Southern African Wildlife College, and will provide significant funding.
“I am delighted to announce today that my brother’s United for Wildlife partnership will work with, and fund, the Southern African Wildlife College so that its graduates are equipped with the best techniques and technologies available to protect some of the world’s most endangered species,” Prince Harry said.
The collaboration will provide significant funding to help train wildlife area managers and field rangers protecting Southern Africa’s endangered species, whilst also providing support to the Community based Natural Resource Management unit.
Prince Harry is an ambassador for United for Wildlife, and alliance that includes the Conservation International (CI), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), WWF-UK, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and The Royal Foundation. The alliance hopes to lead the way to substantially increase the global response to major conservation crisis.
The funding will support the Southern African Wildlife College to build on its existing needs-based training to include Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tools (SMART) and additional support to the Community Based Natural Resources Management work. This will in turn enable the College to build existing staff capacity and engage new trainers, whilst also supporting Protected Area Managers across the SADC region.
Specialist skills training will help ensure those fields rangers are provided with the necessary skills have to handle the increasingly sophisticated methods that poaching gangs are using to peddle the illegal trade in rhino horn and ivory.
SMART technology (including satellites, ground sensors and GPS trackers) is a key tool for the rangers, as it enables them to monitor protected sites more efficiently. It also helps streamline their response to the poachers by quickly collecting and analysing data on the ground.
The numbers of rhino poached in South Africa has grown by nearly 500% in just five years, with most of these occurring in the Greater Kruger National Park. Already this year, 1,500 rhino have been killed in this country, according to South African National Parks. During his visit to the Southern African Wildlife College, Prince Harry highlighted how rangers are using their specialised skills to deal with the alarming number of incidents, and how intelligence and evidence is gathered to secure convictions or prevent further incidents.
“The Southern African Wildlife College has increased its field ranger training capability to include specialist anti-poaching skills which are further supported by our aerial patrols and ground to air patrol training as well as a newly established canine anti-poaching capability. We are extremely proud to have been selected as a partner by United for Wildlife in the fight against poaching which is further supported SMART and the involvement of local communities,” said the College CEO, Theresa Sowry.
Naomi Doak, Project Director for United for Wildlife added, “We are delighted to be able to draw attention to the human side of the illegal wildlife trade and support not only those who are at the front line in the protection of some of the worlds’ most iconic species but also the local communities in these areas. Ensuring those on the ground has the skills and experience necessary is key to ensuring the conservation of these species.”