South Africa is home to nearly 80% of the world’s rhino population and has, therefore, been hardest hit by poachers with more than 1,000 rhinos killed each year between 2013 and 2017. Rhinos are often poached for their horns, which buyers believe can cure health problems from hangovers to cure cancer. Earlier this year the South African Department of Environmental Affairs released the 2018 poaching statistics that showed at least two rhinos were slaughtered each day.
PureWild Fund today announced the launch of the Rhino Refuge Project, a global fundraising and awareness campaign to raise $10 million to protect South Africa’s most vulnerable rhino populations. Funds raised will be allocated to projects where state-of-the-art technology can be deployed to prevent wildlife crime and the senseless slaughter of these critically endangered animals.
John Turner, Chairperson of PWF says the Rhino Refuge Project originated 2 years ago when concerned conservationists appealed to the international donor community for support to finance early detection and immediate response projects in rhino-poaching hotspots.
“There is a consensus among rhino protection NGOs and conservation authorities that the most effective way to prevent rhino poaching is to make sure the poachers are detected and apprehended before killing a rhino to harvest their horn. For this purpose, we are collaborating with providers of technology locally and abroad to come forward with advanced, yet practical, solutions”. He added rangers, law enforcement agencies, as well as local communities, will be encouraged and trained, where necessary, to be active participants in early detection and immediate response operations.”
Scientists have developed fake rhino horns using horsehair in a bid to create “credible fakes” to flood the market and reduce demand for the material. Researchers from the University of Oxford created the synthetic horn by bundling horse hairs, gluing them together with a matrix of regenerated silk to mimic the collagenous properties of authentic rhino horn.
Turner says an example of an effective way to prevent wildlife crime and poaching is to equip rangers with technology that enables them to detect human incursion early and to respond immediately with a well-trained ground force to apprehend poachers and, most importantly, save a rhino. This includes big game fences armed with technology that enable early detection and immediate response to intrusions; thermal energy detection technology; custom-made telecommunication systems, and radar equipment.
According to Turner “The cost to acquire, deploy and manage early detection and immediate-response technology, combined with training rangers and support staff is prohibitive but the cost of losing more rhinos coupled with the risk of losing all far outweighs this challenge. “We are all obligated to future generations to do whatever it takes to ensure rhinos in South Africa are safe.”