Photo Credit: Dave Hamman Photography

Pro-active monitoring and patrolling in the Kunene Region of Namibia in response to the African rhino poaching crisis


Tracking Rhinos

Watch a stunning photo essay portraying a tracker`s daily work and the vast, rugged and beautiful terrain in which they work.

Conservation problem

The Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is currently distributed in relatively small, fragmented landscapes across sub-Saharan Africa. In Namibia's remote north-west Kunene Region, Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) monitors and protects a subpopulation of the south-western subspecies (Diceros bicornis bicornis).

This subpopulation is truly unique since they are the only Rhinoceros that persist on unfenced, communal land with no formal conservation status and have been rated as one of only six Key 1 Black Rhino populations in the world by the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group. Furthermore, they are the largest truly free-ranging Black Rhino population left in the world. However, it could be argued that this unique 'free-roaming' characteristic on unprotected lands also renders Kunene rhinos more susceptible to poaching. The reality of the current poaching crisis in neighbouring South Africa, where 950 rhinos have been killed since January 2009, places the Kunene rhinos at very high risk.

project activities

Save the Rhino International (SRI) and Save the Rhino Trust Namibia (SRT) will use SOS - Save Our Species support to monitor and patrol the Kunene rhino range (25,000 km²). Constant field presence and foot patrols are an effective means to deter poaching and SRT has been employing, training, equipping and deploying teams of local trackers (rhino scouts) in the region for nearly three decades.

Project staff will carry out foot, vehicle, camel, donkey patrols - for inaccessible areas - and air surveillance. Data will be collected on individual rhino, other wildlife and poaching threats (the Kunene database is one of the longest-running and most comprehensive databases on Black Rhino in the world).

Project outcomes

The main objective of this project is the immediate protection of the Diceros bicornis bicornis (a sub species of the Critically Endangered Black Rhino). This will also provide increased security of the wider habitat, of which the rhinos form an integral part.

Also, increased availability of monitoring data for research informs a greater understanding of Black Rhino behaviour and enables more efficient conservation practices to be developed in the future. Management data informs translocation plans, which help to prevent the rhino population reaching Ecological Carrying Capacity in its current range.

Sustainability of good human-wildlife relations is essential and will be ensured by involving communities, employing local staff and generating income from rhino-related tourism

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