It is an historical fact that the old Natal Parks Board is credited with saving the white rhino, and that its successor, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, has been strongly pursuing a goal of increasing the numbers of both black- and white rhinos. This involved placing as many of both species in private ownership, and it is to the credit of a large number of landowners who bought rhinos at the annual Ezemveolo KZN Wildlife Game Auction that this has succeeded. The current onslaught of rhino poaching has certainly damaged South Africa’s rhino stocks, but had previous generations of conservation officers not had the foresight to spread the animals as they did, and the present generation be as dedicated to their safety, both species would be in big trouble.
The security of KZN’s rhino stocks is very high on the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife agenda, and like any security measures the actual methods, equipment and measures are kept secret. Poaching is like any other crime. The perpetrator has the advantage of knowing where and when he is going to strike, while the protection agency has to outguess him, or have in place such tight security that it is impossible to get near the target.
The fences of game reserves enclose large tracts of land and are many hundreds of kilometres long, and as a result it may not be practical or logistically possible to make them poacher proof. Ezemvelo has, however, a long history of innovative biodiversity conservation, and has developed several strategies to protect its rhinos. Well-known, and most visible of these are the dedicated rangers and field rangers who manage the parks and patrol the fence-lines and interior of all Ezemvelo protected areas – not only those containing rhinos. These courageous men and women are in the forefront of the fight to eradicate poaching. They come under fire frequently during exchanges of gunfire with poachers, they are out in the bush by day and by night, in rain, sun or snow; and most importantly, they are out on moonlit nights – which are the poacher’s favourite times. These men and women are Ezemvelo’s most valuable asset in this fight.
There are many other organisations that have joined hands to protect the wildlife assets of KZN and, indeed, of South Africa. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife works very closely with these and there is much sharing of knowledge, tactical information and so on.
The important thing to know, however, is that Ezemvelo is taking this threat very seriously and is being both innovative and proactive. As a Rhino Club member it is important for you to know that a great deal of effort is going into countering the threat of rhino poaching – and, in fact, the threat of poaching wherever it might rear its ugly head.