World Rhino Day is celebrated on 22 September each year and aims to raise public awareness about the illegal trade in rhino horn and global rhino conservation issues. This year, World Rhino Day focused on debunking the myths around rhino horn containing any curative properties, and reducing the demand for rhino horn (download our Fact Sheet on Rhino Dehorning at www.ewt.org.za).
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) called on the public to Act for Rhino Conservation on World Rhino Day. Two fundraising campaigns provide this opportunity:
- The EWT MyPlanet Rhino Fund, launched in May 2011, in partnership with Woolworths and Braam Malherbe, offers a tangible way to actively support rhino conservation in South Africa. This dedicated rhino conservation fund is a partnership between the EWT and the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet fundraising programme, which has supported environmental and animal welfare since 2007 through its MyPlanet card. For more information and or download an application form please visit www.myschool.co.za.
- The Rhino Force campaign is raising awareness of the illegal trade in rhinos, as a flagship species for all illegal wildlife trade and poaching. The Rhino Force bracelets are made up of white, red and black beads separated by a coconut seed. The black and read beads represent the black and white rhinos, and the red beads signify their plight. The coconut seeds reflect the rhino’s colour and tough exterior. Rhino Force bracelets are available at Exclusive Books outlets across the country and will soon be available in other stores, at a cost of R30 each. A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of these bracelets goes towards the EWT’s rhino conservation work.
We caution members of the public to be wary of donating money to potentially fraudulent fundraisers. Always look for a Nonprofit Organisation (NPO) and Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) number and ask questions about how donations will be spent and what percentage of the donation goes towards actual conservation work.
Funds raised for the EWT’s rhino conservation activities are used in the following ways:
- Developing the use of sniffer dogs to detect various illegal wildlife products, starting with rhino horn at South Africa’s ports, through which rhino horn and other wildlife contraband are being illegally exported. In this regard the EWT initiated a project to introduce the use of wildlife detection dogs for law enforcement with rhino poaching specifically, and wildlife trade generally into the various airports around South Africa. Through this project, various actions to increase the number and effectiveness of wildlife contraband detection dogs are being implemented. The project has also identified serious gaps in the knowledge base and skills of various authorities and officials at airports and borders who could potentially impact on the illegal wildlife trade. To address this, training (which covered inter alia CITES, environmental legislation, species identification and legal procedure) was initiated with law enforcement officials employed in various capacities at O.R. Tambo International Airport in July 2011. Furthermore, eight conservation enforcement officials from the Gauteng Department of Rural Development (GDARD) attended a one-day course on animal welfare and conservation issues. These training courses are now being rolled out further afield and to a wider variety of officials including baggage handlers, South African Police Service, customs authorities and conservation authorities.
- Supporting investigations into rhino poaching and hosting a national rhino anti-poaching hotline (082 404 2128). All information received is channelled to the relevant authorities for investigation and the information gathered through this line so far has assisted with a number of investigations into rhino poaching.
- Public education and information sharing through the development of a fact sheet on rhino poaching which provides accurate information on the uses of rhino horn, the market drivers, the current trends and the various responses. This is available for download from the EWT website.
- Supporting debate and discussions around possible solutions to the poaching problem. To this end facilitation of the national workshop in March 2011, which assembled more than 40 relevant stakeholders and experts on rhino management and wildlife trade. The workshop was aimed at determining the viability of rhino dehorning as a deterrent to poaching and to investigate the potential for legalising the trade in rhino horn as a possible solution to poaching; and identify gaps in knowledge relevant to all of the above. The workshop proceedings are available here.
- Publication of a guide to help rhino owners and managers improve security and thereby prevent rhino poaching on their properties. It also aims to contribute to improved conviction rates for poaching and related offences. To order a copy of the rhino booklet please contact Kirsty Brebner on email@example.com or 011 327 3600.
Plans to expand the activities above are afoot along with the roll-out of anti-poaching dogs, increased ranger training and supporting the debate into rhino dehorning and legalising the trade of rhino horn through the provision of sound, credible information and facts that will ensure the best decisions are taken.
World Rhino Day is an opportunity to reflect on the threats facing our rhinos, but also poaching and the illegal trade in all wildlife globally. Some other species affected by trade include various South African falcons, parrots and songbirds, South Africa’s National Bird the Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus, the endemic grassland specialist Sungazer or Giant Girdled Lizard Cordylus giganteus, the Critically Endangered South African cycad species Encephalartos latifrons, and cats such as the Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and Leopard Panthera pardus.
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