Namibia: Save the Rhino Trust
At a glance
Location: Kunene and Erongo Regions in the northwest of Namibia
Programme managers: Simson Uri-Khob, Bernd Brell, Jeff Muntifering, Sue Wagner and Alta van Schalkwyk
Programme partner: Save The Rhino Trust
Rhino species: Black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis)
Size of protected area: 25,000 km2
Activities: Field Patrolling and Monitoring; Capacity Building; Research and Evaluation
Support: We focus on Save the Rhino Trust’s Field Patrolling and Monitoring and Capacity Building programmes, particularly ongoing core costs such as salaries and vehicle running costs
Funding partners: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Save Our Species, Zoo Krefeld
About Save the Rhino Trust
Credit: Save the Rhino Trust
In the early 1980s, prolonged drought and rampant poaching took a heavy toll on the Kunene Region’s desert wildlife, in particular the desert-adapted black rhino subspecies (Diceros bicornis bicornis). Little information was known about this animal’s habitat. Anti-poaching efforts did not exist and the black rhino population in the Kunene was reduced to dangerously low numbers.
In 1982, Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) was formed to reduce poaching and save these animals from the brink of extinction. SRT’s approach was simple but highly effective: offer poachers a more secure livelihood as wildlife guards. After three decades of SRT’s pioneering efforts and collaboration with the Namibian government, WWF and communities, the black rhino population has quintupled in size and demand for rhino-based tourism is growing steadily.
Simson Uri-Khob (Director of Field Operations), Bernd Brell (Director of Special Operations and Services), Jeff Muntifering (Director of Research and Evaluation), Sue Wagner (Fundraising Manager) and Alta van Schalkwyck (Finance Officer).
Rhino species and population size
After 30 years of work, rhino numbers in the Kunene Region have increased five-fold and the Kunene is home to the largest concentration of black rhino on earth to survive on land that has no formal conservation status.
The African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) rates the desert rhino population of northwest Namibia as a Key 1 Population, representing the only desert-specific population of black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) in the world. Given that there are only seven Key 1 populations throughout Africa, SRT’s rhino conservation work in the Kunene Region is clearly hugely important, on both a national and international level.
All species living in the rhino range benefit from the reintroduction of rhino, through increased surveillance, patrolling, and monitoring of animals in general.
Individual population statistics are confidential to protect against targeted poaching.
The Kunene and Erongo Regions (formally Damaraland and Kaokoland), is in the northwest of Namibia, covering an area of approximately 25,000 km². The rhino range includes tourism concessions (currently managed by Wilderness Safaris) and communal conservancies, such as Doro Nawas, Huab, Uukwaluudhi, Torra, Omatendeka, and Khoadi Hoas.
The climate is incredibly dry and arid in this region with temperatures ranging from below zero to above 40°C. The scattered and sporadic rainfall influences where the indigenous animals, including rhinos, graze.
This region is one of the few deserts in the world that supports such a wide variety of mammals including desert elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena, zebra and a wide variety of antelope - not forgetting the rhino of course.
Thanks to the on-going and generous support of various donor organisations and individuals, SRT has proved its sustainability over a period of thirty years. SRT has recently signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding with MET, which replaces an earlier mandate dated 2002. This serves as recognition of the value of the work done by the Trust in assisting the Ministry in the protection of black rhino over three decades.
However, despite strong worldwide and local support, various funding gaps remain each year, and SRI’s support (and others’) has been essential. New donors and supporters are always welcome and SRI can vouch for the hard work and dedication of the SRT team.
Visiting the Kunene Region
The Kunene is a vast, rugged and remote wilderness, with a special beauty of its own that is impossible to describe in words. If you wish to enjoy both the very special landscape and a once-in-a-lifetime rhino-tracking experience on foot with one of the SRT tracking teams to see the unique desert-adapted black rhino, visit Wilderness Safaris’ Desert Rhino Camp. See here for a photo essay on rhino tracking: