Save the Rhino Trust: 30 years of rhino conservation
Namibia is known to have the largest population of free-ranging rhinos in the world and has the largest population of rhinos persisting on harsh desert rangelands that are unprotected. Founded in 1982 by the late Blythe Loutit and her husband Rudi, Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia has been successfully protecting the desert-adapted black rhino of the Kunene and Erongo regions for 30 years and has established the largest and longest running rhino monitoring database in existence.
Through its community-centered approach, the Save the Rhino Trust Namibia developed a capacity building programme where people from the local community are trained on how to monitor and co-exist with the critically endagered rhinos that range freely on their lands.Over 60 community game guards have received training since 2005 and are tasked with the translocation of desert-adapted black rhino into their former habitat to establish meta-populations and to ensure the survival and growth of the species.
According to Jeff Muntifering, Research and Evaluation Manager at Save the Rhino Trust Namibia, the tracking of rhinos is crucial for monitoring the movement and living behaviour of the rhinos and recording this information in the data base system.
Muntifering added that the database is an unrivalled source of knowledge on rhino biology and ecology that enables them to not only monitor the health of the animals but also better understand what resources are critical to ensure their survival and what levels of human pressure they will most likely tolerate. Thus informaton from the database can be transformed into tools such as large format maps to help make decisions regarding the well-being of the rhinos.
“We believe research should be management-driven, which means the monitoring and research outputs are focused on what decision makers feel is important. That way, we can help gather, synthesize and disseminate information that will be much more useful and likely to be used by many stakeholders such athe Ministry of Environment and Tourism and local community for decision making,” Muntifering explained.
According to Muntifering, the trust is also taking on a more inter-disciplinary perspective that not only looks at the monitoring of the rhinos but also focuses on other dimensions such as economic and social aspects especially the development of responsible rhino-based tourism practices.
He emphasised that Namibia is widely known for its community based conservation so promoting and practising a participatory research approach with comunities is very important in order to ensure action is taken and learning is achieved.
Over the past 10 years, the trust has assisted the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and local communities with translocating nearly 40 rhinos to about 134 communal conservancies in the Kunene region and has developed joint patrols to promote community involment and motivation in protecting the rhinos.
Activities at the trust also focus on wildlife-based tourism, in close collaboration with the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Guests at the Desert Rhino Camp can go out with the rhino trackers in a 4×4 vehicle to search for the rhinos, before getting closer on foot. Rhino viewing cards provides information on the distance and time allocated to view the rhinos.
Save the Rhino Trust Namibia received a generous donation of N$250,000 from Solvay-Okoruso Mine’s Community Trust at the World Rhino Day celebrations, which Muntifering said will be directly channeled to support their core rhino monitoring work.