The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 Oct 2022
On 4 February, the year started on a high note when the Dutch Postcode Lottery (Nationale Postcode Loterij) announced that Peace Parks Foundation and WWF Netherlands was the recipient of the Dreamfund, awarded to help them in their efforts to save the rhino from extinction (see photo above). The Dream Fund gives charitable organisations an opportunity to realise courageous, ground-breaking new projects. Peace Parks Foundation also received support from the Swedish Postcode Lottery to combat rhino poaching. As an annual beneficiary of both these charitable lotteries, significant and wide-ranging development in the region’s transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs), has been realised. It has also been a catalyst in securing further sizeable funding from development agencies and donor partners for TFCA development.
Rhino Protection Programme
Since the announcements by the Dutch and Swedish postcode lotteries, the South African government and its conservation entities, have been working closely with Peace Parks Foundation to plan detailed projects as part of the multifaceted Rhino Protection Programme.
In 2014, some of the highlights include:
Marking a milestone in the development of Lubombo TFCA’s Maputo Special Reserve, its headquarters were opened by the Mozambican Minister of Tourism, Mr Carvalho Muária on 14 February 2014. Funded by the World Bank, the headquarters include entrance gates at Futi and at Gala, both with a reception office, boom gate, kiosk and restrooms for visitors. The head office complex includes 11 offices, while housing comprises two houses for senior staff and dormitories for field rangers. Two ranger stations were also built. In Sioma Ngwezi National Park the construction of the new park headquarters was completed. Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through KfW as part of the KAZA TFCA development, it includes 11 offices, a radio control room, an ablution block, 20 junior staff houses and five senior staff houses.
In Limpopo National Park, in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, 300 of the 350km upgrade on the road network that runs between Massingir in the south and Pafuri in the north, through the community support zone along the Limpopo River, was completed. This has substantially improved access, thus enhancing economic development and livelihood improvements.
The implementation of Limpopo National Park’s 18 community irrigation schemes, from which over 3 000 community members benefit, continues. An expanded conservation agriculture project is planned for 2015. In preparation for this, staff underwent conservation agriculture training in Maputo Special Reserve. The community nursery has supplied over 1 100 sapling trees to the Macavene resettled community as part of the resettlement sustainability programme. On 1 June, the communities received their annual cheque for 20% of the park’s revenues. The funds are ploughed back into community projects.
During the Maputo Special Reserve opening ceremony, a cheque for 20% of the park’s 2013 revenues was handed to the reserve’s 17 communities, ±8 800 people. The reserve’s Community Development Facility, a joint initiative between the government of Mozambique, COmON Foundation and Peace Parks Foundation, is supporting community projects that include training, supplying water to 10 400 people, a commercial chilli project and another for growing vegetables in greenhouses for approximately 1 800 families. The field coordinator for the Simalaha Community Conservancy’s conservation agriculture project has spent time in Maputo Special Reserve to train agriculture extension staff and farmers.
In the Simalaha Community Conservancy in KAZA TFCA, the implementation of conservation agriculture made good progress, thanks to the support of the Swedish Postcode Lottery and Kadans Foundation, with its partners Hitachi Data Systems and Hercuton. In the first cycle 150 farmers were trained and given seeds for maize, cowpeas and groundnuts, as well as cassava cuttings. The combined surface planted by the farmers for each crop is 37.5 ha. Despite a dry spell, the average yield per hectare has increased from 0.2 to 1.9 tonnes. Twenty treadle pumps were purchased for the establishment of irrigated home gardens. During the next cycle, 12 contact farmers were trained. These farmers will, in turn, train over 200 new smallholder farmers. To assist with this, 24 bicycles were purchased and distributed to the contact farmers.
A joint operational strategy for the Maputo Special Reserve/Tembe Elephant Park (Mozambique / South Africa) component was signed into force by the relevant authorities and approved by the Lubombo Commission on 28 March. The strategy called for the formation of a park management committee, which was formally established in July. The committee provides direction and guidance on the implementation of the two parks’ joint operational strategy. It also ensures that the appropriate consultation takes place and that the relevant stakeholders are included in the effective joint management of the two reserves.
Along the Indian Ocean coastline, the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve’s turtle monitoring programme links up with the one across the border, in South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site. During Ponta do Ouro’s 2013—2014 season, there were 1 518 recordings of loggerhead and 87 of leatherback turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, i.e. one turtle may return more than once. The number of confirmed nests was 910 for loggerhead and 84 for leatherback turtles, which is an increase in relation to the previous year’s figures of 632 loggerhead and 38 leatherback.
Thanks to the cross-border cooperation that exists in this marine TFCA, the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve was assisted by iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority with the necessary procedures to dispose of the wreckage of a ship that ran aground in March, thereby protecting the sensitive marine life.
The /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park continued training its staff. This year it included the training of river guides for a kayak trail being developed for the stretch of river between Gamkab and Sendelingsdrift. To support the operation of the Sendelingsdrift pontoon and the transfrontier park’s joint river patrols, skippers underwent additional training. Staff also underwent GIS training for the monitoring tools needed in conservation and to enable them to create management maps.
In Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, senior officials from Limpopo (LNP) and Kruger national parks have been meeting and focusing on a number of strategic anti-poaching interventions. These include the implementation of a joint training programme, improved cross border collaboration, joint operations and a joint communications strategy. At an operational level, Operation Capricorn focuses on strategic operations along the two parks’ border region. In addition to day-to-day communications, regular border site meetings are held between the respective park operational units, with a focus on intelligence sharing, joint strategic deployment of patrols and waylay operations. The Kruger unit has been offering significant operational support. The cooperation will be further enhanced once LNP’s new digital radio network upgrade is completed, thereby enabling joint crossborder radio communications. Thanks to South African border authorities’ approval and with the appropriate monitoring and control measures in place, LNP patrols are deployed along the Kruger National Park boundary road. As a result of the transfrontier collaboration and joint operations, incursions along the border have dropped significantly.
In the beginning of July, seven cyclists undertook the inaugural Lubombo transfrontier mountain bike tour from Mhlumeni in Swaziland to Ubombo in South Africa. The ride took five days and covered approximately 280 km along the rough spine of the Lebombo Mountains. The purpose of the expedition was to link the key features along the Lebombo Mountains and investigate the possibility of establishing a transfrontier mountain bike network.
The 2014 Nedbank Tour de Tuli has become one of southern Africa’s premier mountain biking events. Organised by Children in the Wilderness (CITW), this year’s event saw 340 participants cycle across over 250 km of challenging and remote terrain in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa in the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA, from 1—6 August. All funds raised are channelled directly into CITW, a non-profit organisation that runs sustainable education programmes to bridge the divide between communities and the wildlife areas they live next to. Over the last 10 years, Tour de Tuli has hosted 2 369 cyclists and raised R11.6 million ($1.04 million) for CITW.
The 2014 Desert Knights mountain bike tour had 120 cyclists cover 280 km between 24 and 30 September. It involved five days of cycling, some of it at night under the full moon, and one day of canoeing on the Orange River. The aim of the event is to contribute towards unlocking the tourism potential of the transfrontier park. Proceeds of the tour support joint conservation activities in the park.
Another successful cross-border wilderness trail was held in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park from 5 – 8 September this year. Two groups of six people each, plus two guides per trail, participated in what has become known as the Trans-Limpopo Walking Trail, from the Makuleke Area in South Africa’s Kruger National Park to Zimbabwe’s Sengwe Area. The trail was also linked to a one-day Shangane cultural event in the Sengwe Area, resulting in the flow of tangible benefits to two of Great Limpopo’s community areas. Great Limpopo has identified a range of cross-border tourism products that could be developed in the context of the transboundary initiative and in partnership with a variety of key stakeholders. These products include transboundary wilderness trails, self-drive 4×4 trails, and the development of a cross-border tourism node in the Pafuri/Sengwe area that forms the heart of the transfrontier park.
In June , Oryx published a study proving that a population of zebra undertake the longest big-mammal migration in Africa. The zebra travel along a 500 km round trip journey in an almost direct north-south axis between Namibia and Botswana in the KAZA TFCA. Senior conservation scientist Dr Robin Naidoo and his colleagues at the Washington-based World Wildlife Fund, assisted by the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, scientists from Elephants Without Borders and Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks, made the discovery using GPS collars attached to eight adult Burchell’s zebra. This migration underpins the importance of TFCAs in preserving migration patterns. Still in KAZA, Botswana’s Okavango Delta became the 1 000th site inscribed on Unesco’s World Heritage List on 22 June 2014. Okavango is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into the ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. In other good news, the KAZA TFCA master integrated development plan (IDP) was finalised. The partner countries are already implementing the IDPs for their components of KAZA. The five separate IDPs, with the master IDP for KAZA TFCA as a whole, will promote the sustainable and equitable development, utilisation and management of KAZA. Apart from the $11.09 million already secured to develop the Malawi-Zambia TFCA, the German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has now committed €18 million ($22.8 million) to the Southern African Development Community under its financial cooperation in order to develop the Malawi-Zambia TFCA. KfW, the German Development Bank, is mandated by BMZ to carry out German financial cooperation.
Wildlife Protection and Management
On 15 May the community wildlife monitors trained to work in the Simalaha Community Conservancy celebrated their passing out parade. The 22 wildlife monitors replaced the Sekute Community Trust and Zambia Wildlife Authority rangers who had been monitoring the wildlife and the wildlife sanctuary fence since the first animals were translocated in October 2013.
Zebra returned to the Simalaha floodplains for the first time in decades on 24 September. Altogether 50 zebra were captured in the Salambala Conservancy in the Zambezi Region of Namibia and transported to the Simalaha Community Conservancy in Western Zambia. In 2013, 135 wildebeest and 100 impala were brought in. Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts pledged to provide further wildlife species to Simalaha, through the Zambia Wildlife Authority.
In June the Southern African Wildlife College won the prestigious Mail & Guardian ‘Greening the Future’ award in the newly established category ‘Skills for Sustainability’. The college was also a runner up for the 2014 Rhino Conservation Awards in the category ‘Best Awareness, Education and Fundraising’ for rhino protection and conservation.
In August, the SA College for Tourism Tracker Academy conducted its second higher level pilot training programme in preparation for accreditation of a Lead Tracker course with the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA). The Lead Tracker training programme is aimed at trackers who have worked in the ecotourism, anti-poaching and animal monitoring sectors of the conservation industry for many years. Once accredited, it will open the way to confer, for the first time, a nationally recognised tracker certificate for these talented experts.
The SA College for Tourism again passed an audit by CATHSSETA without a single negative comment. As a result, the college’s accreditation as a fully accredited national training provider will be extended to 30 July 2019. The Tracker Academy passed its first ever reaccreditation audit with flying colours. Altogether 89 students graduated at the SA College for Tourism with a Certificate in Small Accommodation Establishment Operations (120 credits) conferred by the Central University of Technology and four national skills development certificates awarded by CATHSSETA. At the same time, 15 students graduated with a Tracking Skills Development Certificate awarded by CATHSSETA and a Tracker Certificate conferred by the Tracker Academy and endorsed by the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. The graduation ceremony coincided with the reopening of the newly renovated and upgraded Drostdy, a 5-star boutique hotel and subsidiary of the college. The Drostdy Hotel will in future form part of the operational training area of the college, thereby affording the students the opportunity of gaining practical experience in a world-class establishment.
At the Southern African Wildlife College, 50 students graduated in the college’s flagship Higher Education and Training accredited programmes, while over 1 500 students had undergone training in a variety of short courses throughout the year. The college has trained over 12 000 students since inception. This was the 17th year that the college has been offering its flagship protected area management programmes designed to help achieve long-lasting conservation results across the region.
SANParks Kudu Award
The year ended on a very high note when Peace Parks Foundation received the much coveted Kudu Award from SANParks on 27 November. The foundation won the Corporate Contribution to Conservation Award (Associated Partner). TFCA development has always been an exemplary process of partnerships and SANParks and Peace Parks Foundation have been jointly developing TFCAs for many years. We deeply appreciate the award and the recognition and we look forward to continue working with SANParks on TFCAs and on rhino protection.