Namibia’s reputation as one of the last safe haven’s for rhinos in Africa from the ruthless greed of rhino poaching syndicates took a serious knock this year, with at least twenty rhinos killed by poachers.
The majority of rhinos were targeted in Namibia’s north-west, and more recently, three rhino carcasses, all with their horns sawed off, were discovered in Namibia’s premier National Park – Etosha.
Amidst increasing calls for stronger, pro-active measures against the poaching syndicates, the CEO of the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) in Namibia, Simson Uri-khob, released a statement underscoring the hard work and efforts being poured into rhino conservation and security throughout the past three decades by SRT staff and the continued passion with which the team works today to safeguard these precious animals.
In his statement, Simson however emphasises that rhino security requires more than talk:
“Desire and passion are great. They are necessary, but alone they won’t divert a crisis. And this is where we find ourselves, a nation who protects rhinos, and those rhinos are under siege”, Uri-Khob writes.
He goes on to address a host of online and private chatter which has indirectly accused some in Rhino conservation circles of not being vocal enough about the crisis in addition to fuelling other, unproven rumours.
“This is not the time for false accusations or individuals acting in isolation or for self-interest, it is the time for all Namibians to come together in the monitoring and protection of our rhinos”.
In the statement, Simson emphasises the devastating loss being felt by all involved in rhino conservation circles and the hard work that is being done to address the situation.
“There has been loss of life. After nearly 2 decades of population growth, of knowing of the decimation of rhinos across our borders, Namibia has been hit. We are devastated by the loss of even one rhino, and together with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Rhino Rangers we resolve our efforts to protect our beloved rhinos”.
THE FULL STATEMENT
I am of this soil, the same land where for more than 25 years I have worked shoulder to shoulder with the dedicated men and women of the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT). Blythe and Rudi Loutit, Ina Britz, Justus Garoeb, Sakeus Kasaona and Simpson Tjongarero are amongst the protectors of rhinos who came before me. They laid the foundation for SRT and the commitment to protecting the rhinos of the Kunene Region.
Those who are with me now, the SRT trackers and guardians know each rhino by their spoor, their range and by their family history.
It is this accumulation of knowledge over more than 3 decades, and daily patrols covering some of the harshest, most beautiful land in this country, that has helped the rhino population grow. Their population growth has been a source of pride for Namibians from all walks of life. But without the support of our local communities this wouldn’t be possible.
Our respect for those who work for SRT, their families and their communities is based on family, history and values. It is who we are, the fabric of life in Namibia, and particularly in communal areas.
We have never turned our backs on those who need our help. We help by getting those who are sick to clinics. We attend funerals, and we celebrate births. And, together we are committed to sharing this land – our land – with the rhino.
Day in and day out, the SRT tracking teams are working hard to ensure that this legacy of life continues in ways that benefit both rhino and people.
Save the Rhino Trust also has a long-term, important relationship with Wilderness Safaris that keeps teams of trackers based at Desert Rhino Camp in the field.
At Grootberg Lodge, we have assisted the local tracking team, who leads the rhino activity, with training and they regularly provide us with rhino identification forms.
We are proud pioneers in transforming tourism into a rhino conservation tool. It is interesting that so far, not a single rhino that is being monitored by rhino tourism has been poached.
At the recent Hospitality Association of Namibia Gala event, the tourism industry came forward in a show of solidarity by donating over N$300,000 to rhino protection, supporting the efforts of those of us working in the field.
Namibian tourism associations, such as Tourism Supporting Conservation and The TOU Trust, have also contributed funds to support our efforts to strengthen our local rhino protection force.
From the High Court to marches in the streets, there is no doubt that one and all, we, Namibians, stand united in our desire to protect our rhinos.
Desire and passion are great. They are necessary, but alone they won’t divert a crisis. And this is where we find ourselves, a nation who protects rhinos, and those rhinos are under siege.
This is not the time for false accusations or individuals acting in isolation or for self-interest, it is the time for all Namibians to come together in the monitoring and protection of our rhinos.
The Save the Rhino Trust has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to research and monitor the rhinos of the Kunene Region. This MOU is born of many years of hard work, action and respect. We stand behind this – and I stand behind my team of trackers.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees Honourable Dudu Murorua and the other members of our board have allocated funds that will allow SRT to double our presence in the field.
There will be no downtime for us. SRT trackers will be in the field 365 days a year spending long, hard, hot days away from family looking out for our rhino by foot, donkey and vehicle. The work is very difficult and dangerous but we do it because we believe it makes a difference.
The Rhino Rangers, a group of conservancy members trained by SRT to conduct monitoring operations in their area, are also active in the field and within their communities. They are very proud of their new skills and responsibility to look after their rhino.
There has seen loss of life.
After nearly 2 decades of population growth, of knowing of the decimation of rhinos across our borders, Namibia has been hit. We are devastated by the loss of even one rhino, and together with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Rhino Rangers we resolve our efforts to protect our beloved rhinos.
The investigation into rhino poaching is the job of the Protected Resource Unit and they will come out with the truth at the end of the day and we will know who is guilty.
I do not want to point fingers at any one at this stage or make any accusations. We have good laws in Namibia and committed Law Enforcement Officers and we rely on them and they will deal with this.
I have heard the Honourable Minister of Environment and Tourism speak of Team Destination Namibia.
It is time for Team Rhino.
We stand with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Honourable Councillor Hendrick Gaobaeb, our partners at NGOs, tourism enterprises, communal conservancies, and every single Namibian in fighting to protect what is part of our legacy, our birthright, those animals who roam the land where I was born, and one day I will die – the rhino.
Simson Uri-khob, Chief Executive Officer of the Save the Rhino Trust
Rhino trackers à la Sherlock Holmes