Sharpening Skills for Rhino Monitoring

(A version of this article originally appeared in The Horn, Autumn 2012. Author: Verity Bowman, Director, Dambari Wildlife Trust)

Since 2003, DWT has facilitated the African Rhino Specialist Group’s ‘“Sandwith’s” Training for Field Rangers’ courses for those on the frontline of our national parks’ Rhino Intensive Protection Zones (IPZs). The purpose of this interactive training is to build rangers’ knowledge about African rhino species, emphasise why ongoing protection is essential, and provide practical training on how to record accurate and useful information from field observations. Benefits further accrue when trained rangers are transferred between IPZs and are more quickly integrated into existing teams.

Ranger Training CourseThe course covers historical population information, the poaching problem and its effect on Zimbabwean and regional populations, the biology, ecology and behaviour of African species, as well as individual recognition using natural markings, ear notches, horn features, age and sex. This information, when analysed, informs management of trends in demographics, habitat use and territoriality, leading to plans to optimise protection and population growth. The course’s modular structure facilitates frequent in-house “refresher” courses to keep the rangers’ data collection skills sharp and dependable.

In May this year, with funding from Marwell Wildlife’s Rhino Appeal, two DWT trainers put 28 Matobo rangers through the training course over two 3-day sessions. Interim tests were held each morning and on the afternoon of the final day, participants sat a rigorous 2-hour examination on all modules.

Eighteen participants attained the stringent rhino monitor accreditation level, five of whom passed with distinction. The remainder will carry out further revision before attempting the exam again. After each course, morale was high and trainees felt enabled and ready to put their knowledge into practice, to ensure that their rhino IPZ is well protected and managed for optimum growth.

Credits: Dambari Wildlife Trust