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Euro grant makes it possible for community rangers to continue protecting wild rhinos (Namibia)

Black Rhino, Namibia. Image- Wikimedia Commons

The Namibian Economist | December 18, 2020

Some 50 rangers working over a vast 25,000 km2 area in north-west Namibia are the last line of defence between the world’s only free-roaming rhinos and the insatiable poachers who act on behalf of oriental crime lords.

These rhinos, living in semi-arid areas, are an important source of income for the local communities dispersed throughout the area though ecotourism. But protecting them needs funding and with this year’s devastating lockdowns, much of the regular funding including the tourism income, has evaporated.

In this regard, the main protecting agency of the wild rhinos, the Save the Rhino Trust, has just received €200,000 as a combined grant from the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States and the European Union. This funding forms part of the trust’s support for local communities where the rhino rangers come from.

Funded through the BIOPAMA Programme, the two-year project will train and equip the trust’s trackers and rangers to enable them to continue protecting the rhinos, and in this way earn income for them and their families.

“This project will contribute to improving resilience of rhino custodian communities against external pressure. It will improve collection of rhino monitoring data through the use of new technology in the field as well as the installation of critical infrastructure needed for communication and well-being of rhino trackers while on patrol. These activities ensure that rhino tourism and the existing rhino ranger programme remain sustainable and benefit biodiversity and local communities’ livelihoods,” read a statement issued jointly by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Save the Rhino Trust.

The trust’s Chief Executive, Simson Uri-Khob said her is impressed with the way conservation is moving and the wide support it received during this disruptive year. “The approach of incentivising local participation in conservation has contributed significantly to the reduction of poaching and rhino monitoring has provided a sustainable form of alternative income for the approximatively 50 community-based rhino rangers currently working in the region.”

EU Ambassador to Namibia, Sinikka Antila commented “Namibia is an acknowledged pioneer in the sustainable management of wildlife and have had great success through their community-based natural resource management approach. The EU is delighted to be a partner in supporting Save the Rhino Trust through the BIOPAMA Programme. We are confident that this grant will build on and expand the excellent work already being done by them in rhino monitoring and developing conservancies. We are equally pleased to collaborate with the IUCN, who provides invaluable guidance and expertise in this endeavour.”