Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo), the Wildlands Conservation Trust (Wildlands) and the African Conservation Trust (ACT) have formed a strategic partnership aimed at stopping rhino poaching in Ezemvelo’s protected areas, writes Dr Andrew Venter.
“The poaching of our Province’s rhino can only be stopped through a collaborative effort. Wildlands and ACT are key partners. We met to explore ways in which we can work more closely to stop this poaching, and it is with pleasure that I can announce that Wildlands and ACT have agreed to actively help us develop our capacity and secure the resources which we need to effectively protect our rhino”, says Dr Bandile Mkhize, CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
The Wildlands CEO, Dr Andrew Venter, and ACT CEO, Francois Du Toit will meet on a regular basis with Dr Mkhize and senior Ezemvelo staff to develop their understanding of the challenges which the organisation is facing, with a view to channelling the resources of the Wildlands network to address these challenges. “The rhino onslaught has taken us all by surprise. Conservation has made great strides towards becoming inclusive and community-based over the past decade. This sits at the heart of both the Ezemvelo and Wildlands Vision, and Ezemvelo are world leaders in this community engagement interface. Unfortunately, the poaching syndicates are ruthless and willing to exploit any weakness. They are actively developing local criminal syndicates, corrupting individuals and abusing Ezemvelo’s goodwill. As such we’re entering a new era of conservation. We need to continue nurturing and supporting community based conservation approaches, whilst demonstrating an intolerance of lawlessness and criminal activity” commented Dr Venter.
The rhino onslaught is not limited to KZN. South Africa has lost a record number of Rhino this year, and there is every indication that the onslaught will continue. Thus the experience gained and systems developed through the formal collaboration between Ezemvelo, ACT and Wildlands, will have benefits way beyond the fences of Ezemvelo’s reserves.
Prof Rob Fincham, Chairman of the Wildlands Conservation Trust stressed the importance of this partnership: “These are three committed and visionary organisations, trying to find a solution to this appalling onslaught. I believe that their collective effort, supported by their extensive networks, will turn the tide. Wildlands already has a number of strategic partnerships with Ezemvelo, including the Wild Series, Integrated Greening Programme, the Conservation Symposium and the Umgeni Recycling initiative. This Rhino partnership adds to this legacy of working together to address the many environmental challenges which we face. I have absolute confidence in their collective ability and am equally dedicated to making this a success. I call on all our partners and supporters to get behind this initiative help us develop and resource the systems required to stop rhino poaching!”
The Ezemvelo, ACT and Wildlands executive teams will meet soon to begin shaping a strategy. ”Our initial emphasis will be on addressing the issues identified through Ezemvelo’s internal investigation of the recent poaching incidents at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Over time we’d like this partnership to focus on all Ezemvelo’s rhino reserves, with a view to reversing the recent poaching onslaught and allowing us to once again drive the expansion of Rhino territory across KZN. This remains our collective goal, as it is essential for the long term survival of this iconic species,” stated Dr Mkhize.
The partnership builds on the foundation laid through the establishment and activities of the ground breaking Project Rhino KZN (www.projectrhinokzn.org) initiative. “We all need to work together to ensure that not only do we stop the poaching of rhino in KZN and South Africa, but also help Ezemvelo grow from strength to strength. They are the custodians of our wonderful natural heritage. They need our help to nurture, care and protect this heritage. They cannot do it alone,” concluded Francois du Toit, CEO African Conservation Trust.